Chinese New Year TV extravaganza uses WeChat in an amazing way to give out $80M in cash

China’s state TV extravaganza for Chinese New Year’s Eve is getting a social media twist this year – and also a pile of cash. The gala entertainment show is giving away RMB 500 million (US$80 million) in cash to viewers via social media such as WeChat and Weibo.

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The TV show – which lasts for nearly five hours – will trigger the cash handouts, in the form of virtual versions of the traditional “red envelope” money-filled gifts, at three points during the broadcast. When the host says it’s time, users of WeChat in China can shake their smartphones vigorously to be in with a chance of winning a portion of the cash available.

This interactive giveaway ties in with WeChat’s existing Shake feature, which is usually used to find fellow users of the messaging app nearby.

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WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, explains on its news portal that the money actually comes from corporate sponsors. The largest single handout will be RMB 4,999 (US$800), but most people are likely to get only small change.

I tried it for myself when I saw the “shake” icon pop up on screen:

Chinese TV show uses WeChat in an amazing way to give out $80M in cash

That was my cue to shake it off, shake it off:

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Chinese TV show uses WeChat in an amazing way to give out $80M in cash

Bingo! I won something:

Chinese TV show uses WeChat in an amazing way to give out $80M in cash

Er… Well, I managed to win the princely sum of RMB 3, which is about US$0.45. It’s from a random company I’ve never heard of before whose logo appears at the top of the virtual red envelope. That gets added to my existing WeChat Payment account.

The Twitter-esque Weibo doesn’t have such a “shake” feature, so its users have to click a link at the allotted times to try win some red envelopes.

The TV cash giveaway is a new aspect to the online cash flow that’s started happening in China in the past couple of years as people use the epayment features of Weibo and WeChat to gift cash to their buddies. More recently, the tech companies themselves have been giving away cash directly to users as a way of winning hearts and minds as Tencent (which runs WeChat) battles Alibaba (which runs Alipay and also supports Weibo) over online payments.

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