It's a crazy concept - making money while you watch TV. Believe it or not that was the case back in the 1960s when local TV stations lured in viewers with cash rewards.
Granted, your chances for a payout weren't as good as an Off track Betting window, Atlantic City or even the Royal Vegas Online casino. But Horse Racing and Bingo were two ways to make some moolah watching TV shows in the 1960s, you did it by matching the scorecards you got at the grocery stores with the Bingo numbers or the horse race results you saw on Saturday nights.
But that wasn't the only way someone could make bank passively watching television.
Many a housewife in the 1960s, and well into the mid-1970s, would be sitting at home eating Bon Bons when the phone rang and a familiar voice asked, "This is Jungle Jim El Dorado from Channel Eight's Dialing for Dollars calling. Do you know the count and the amount?" If fair maiden was watching the morning or afternoon movie she would know that the "count" was the number spun on the wheel early in the program, and the "amount" (what she could win) would be the money accumulated since the last winner.
Dialing for Dollars was a local production but a national concept, a weekday game played on the air live three or so times during a movie or a block of sitcom reruns. The host would start with an amount of money usually associated with the channel number (channel 8 would start with $8.00, for instance) and that number was added to the pot each day that someone failed to provide the correct answer when the host called. The station in our viewing area, WGHP in High Point NC, was hosted by Jo Nelson and Jerry Merritt.
The chances of the station actually reaching someone that was watching and paying attention was small enough that the amounts often climbed into the hundreds of dollars. Some family members would watch the movie just long enough to get the count and the amount during the first commercial break then post the numbers by the phone, just in case. We know this because it wasn't uncommon for a viewer to quote the numbers from the day before. Ouch! The day you didn't watch was the day they called. Maybe Royal Vegas Online casino was a better idea after all!
Because it was played live there aren't a lot of surviving Dialing for Dollars segments. Philadelphia's Jim O'Brien was so popular on Channel 6 the program had a studio audience.
KCOP in Los Angeles had their own version of Dialing for Dollars with host Johnny Gilbert. On this 1974 show guests would come on to plug their products or events.
This is a promo for Rhode Island's WLNE's Dialing For Dollars Movie from October, 1987. This was a bit of a rarity, by the eighties it became a liability putting someone you randomly called on the air live. They were liable to say anything! Note that they had a $5,000 call that day. Must have been ratings week!