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LOS ANGELES -- Want to earn stuff by watching TV? A free app for that made its debut Wednesday.
When you tap the screen, Viggle's software for iPhones and iPads listens to what's on your television, recognizes what you're watching, and gives you credit at roughly two points per minute.
Rack up 7,500 points, and you'll be rewarded with a $5 gift card from retailers such as Burger King, Starbucks, Apple's iTunes, Best Buy, or CVS, which you can redeem directly from your device.
With some back-of-the-napkin math, you can figure that it would take three weeks of watching TV every night for three hours to earn enough for a latte at Starbucks. But the company plans to offer bonus points for checking into shows such as American Idol and 1,500 points for signing up. You can also get points for watching an ad on your device.
"Viggle is the first loyalty program for TV," said Chris Stephenson, president of the company behind Viggle, Function (X) Inc. "We're basically allowing people to get rewards for doing something they're doing already and that they love to do."
The idea behind Viggle is that by giving people an added reason to watch TV, the size of the audience will increase, thereby allowing makers of shows to earn more money from advertisers. Advertisers such as Burger King, Pepsi, and Gatorade have agreed to pay to have users watch their ads on a mobile device.
In exchange, users earn points, which Viggle converts into real value by buying gift cards at a slight discount from retailers. The company could end up making more money from advertisers and networks than it gives away in rewards.
The app will give the company valuable insight into who is watching what, because redeeming rewards requires putting in your age, gender, email address, and ZIP code.
The app made its debut in Apple Inc.'s app store on Wednesday. Versions for Android devices and computers are in the works.