How Showtime Is Marketing Its New Drama ‘Billions’ to Wall Street

Hopes to turn financial sector into influencers

While HBO got the mafia to pay attention to The Sopranos, and AMC played up Mad Men to the agency world, Showtime is taking its new show Billions to the bank—and the bankers and financiers on Wall Street and beyond.

"People love to see themselves, good or bad, depicted in popular entertainment," said Showtime's evp and CMO Don Buckley. "I remember reading quotes years ago about how the mob loved to watch The Sopranos."

The drama stars Damian Lewis as hedge fund mogul Bobby Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. attorney who tries to bring him down. Malin Akerman and Maggie Siff star as their wives, respectively. Andrew Ross Sorkin, financial reporter for The New York Times and co-anchor of CNBC's Squawk Box, is an executive producer. Billions will premiere on Showtime on Jan. 17.

With a slew of partnerships from the finance, travel and app communities, Showtime is pushing Billions to the monied set. Buckley compares it to brands that partner with social media influencers. "That's an incredibly vocal community," he said. "Their influence is not to be underestimated."

Goldman Sachs will screen the pilot and hold a panel discussion with writers and executive producers David Levien and Brian Koppelman. It's part of the finance giant's leadership forum called "Talks @ GS." The Jan. 14 event will be held at Goldman's New York office and be livestreamed to 22 offices around the country. "We think it's going to be an important center of influence for conversation about the show," said Buckley.

Showtime also has additional partnerships with the elite travel website Jetsetter for a custom-themed survey, and it's sponsoring access to The Wall Street Journal's website by taking down the paywall on Jan. 15. The network is holding additional screenings at Spotlight Cinemas in the 10 largest U.S. cities.

And in a partnership with Shazam, Showtime will let viewers scan actual currency to unlock Billions content and a chance to attend a screening.

Along with the Goldman Sachs and Spotlight Cinemas screenings, Showtime has made the pilot available on its on-demand and digital platforms. "We're screening the show probably more broadly than we have any other show prior to its premiere," said Buckley. Many of Showtime's cable and satellite partners will be making the channel free for its subscribers the weekend of Jan. 15-17 as well.

This is a homecoming of sorts for star Damian Lewis, who stared as POW-turned-political candidate Nicholas Brody in the first three seasons of Showtime's Homeland. Buckley said there was a conversation about a possible "Brody Effect," but decided not to focus too much on marketing Lewis' return. "We didn't call that out specifically," he said, arguing that Brody has been long gone from the show.