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HitBliss app rewards you for watching commercials

Watch ads, earn credit, then exchange that credit for movies, TV shows, or even a Pandora subscription.

HitBliss for iOS lets you earn credit on the go, though you can't spend it in the app just yet. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

This past weekend I rented "Up" from Amazon to watch with the kids. It's one of my favorite -- SQUIRREL! -- Pixar movies. Aw, heck, one of my favorite movies, period.

Regular price to rent in HD: $3.99. My price: $0.

That's thanks to HitBliss, a service that awards you credit in exchange for watching commercials. Previously you had to stay tethered to your PC to do that, but the new HitBliss apps for Android and iOS let you earn on the go.

I recommend starting with the desktop version to get a feel for how it all works, and you can use this link to get a $1 credit right from the start. That said, you can also create a new account via the Android app, though the iOS version merely lets you sign into an existing one created with the desktop client.

How it all works is like this: You click (or tap) Earn, then watch one or more commercials. For each one you complete, you're given credit that can be used toward TV and movie rentals or a Pandora One subscription. The amount of credit varies depending on the length of the commercial and a few other factors, but in my experience you can rack up enough for a movie rental after just 4-5 minutes.

Don't think you can game the system, though: At random times the app displays a "trust" bug that must be tapped within a few seconds, otherwise you won't get your credit. In other words, you can't just start the commercials playing and then walk away, put your phone down, or the like. You have to pay attention.

You can earn faster if you're willing to personalize your HitBliss account (meaning supply information like age, location, education, and so on). Also, if there's a commercial you find particularly obnoxious, you can "bury" it so as not to see it again. And if there's one you like, you can hit Save to access it again later. (Who knows, maybe there's a product or service you'll actually want to buy.)

Once you've accumulated enough credit, you can browse the HitBliss store for movies and TV shows, most of which are delivered via Amazon. (In some cases you'll receive an Amazon Gift Card you can apply to your rental.) I recently hit the cap ($6), meaning I had to spend my credit before I could earn any more.

This is a pretty cool service; I've yet to find a downside, other than sharing tidbits of personal info that, frankly, I don't mind sharing, and spending a couple minutes here and there watching commercials. And now that HitBliss is mobile, you can knock out a few views whenever you're standing in line at the post office, stuck in a waiting room, taking the train to work, etc. By the end of the week: presto, free movie rental. What's not to like?