Roku is gearing up to stuff a bunch of exclusive and original programming into the Roku Channel — and the company has set the premiere date for its first licensed content on this front for the free, ad-supported streaming service.
“Cypher,” an FBI-set crime drama series, will premiere exclusively on the Roku Channel on March 19 in the U.S. and Canada. The seven-episode hour-long show, from Cairo-based Aroma Studios and United Bros., will be available to Roku Channel viewers for free. All episodes will drop simultaneously in binge-friendly fashion.
It’s just the beginning of a big slate exclusive content coming to the Roku Channel, which the company said doubled its U.S. audience to 63 million in the fourth quarter. Roku acquired global rights to more than 75 original shows from Quibi, the startup headed by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that went belly-up six months after launch. Roku plans to add the Quibi lineup, representing several hundred hours of content, on the Roku Channel in 2021.
Roku says it’s leading with a licensing strategy for Roku Channel exclusives rather than producing its own content (for now, anyway: a recent job listing indicates the company is staffing up a team to oversee original productions). In the U.S., the Roku Channel is stocked with more than 40,000 free movies and TV shows, as well as more than 165 free live linear TV channels.
“Our partnership with Aroma Studios and United Bros. for the exclusive licensing and premiere of ‘Cypher’ aligns with our broader AVOD content strategy that will continue to drive the growth of the Roku Channel going forward,” said Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming.
“Cypher” follows top FBI cryptanalyst Will Scott (Martin Dingle Wall) enlisted to crack an encoded document — revealed to be a hit list. He soon finds himself in the crosshairs of the criminals who want their list back and must navigate the murky waters of loyalty and betrayal amongst an underground ring of hackers, hit men and FBI agents.
The series was executive produced by Aroma Studios’ Zeus Zamani (who also serves as showrunner) and Tamer Mortada and written and directed by Majdi Smiri.
“Roku is a pioneer in TV streaming with millions of engaged users,” Zamani said. “The Roku Channel is a premiere destination for streaming entertainment because of the scale and diversity of its audience.”
The cast of “Cypher” also includes Jaclyn Hales as Claire, a mysterious woman who offers to protect and help Will; Mary Helen Schmidt as Will’s ex-wife Leah, Lauren Gravitt as Will’s daughter; Brian Krause as the FBI’s head of the case; John Reardon as Antoine; Eve Mauro as FBI agent Reese; and John J. Jordan as Andre, Reese’s partner.
The Roku Channel is available on Roku-powered TVs and streaming media players, as well as on the web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs. Currently, the company offers the Roku Channel in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Watch the “Cypher” trailer:
Pictured above: Martin Dingle Wall in “Cypher”