Consumers in China are in for a huge treat as some of the country's biggest internet companies give away money as reward to customers using their apps ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, China's dominant mobile payment operators, have pledged to give away a combined 5.2 billion yuan (US$826 million) worth of hongbao - the traditional red packet containing cash and given as a gift - and shopping coupons, all in digital form. "Chinese people have a tradition to send greetings and hongbao to each other during the Lunar New Year, making it the best time for the likes of Alibaba and Tencent to build up brand awareness and increase the number of users on their apps," said Sissi Chu, the vice-president of research at mobile big data service provider Jiguang. The Lunar New Year, which is a festive time for family reunions across China, falls on February 16 this year. China's mobile payment giants forcing incumbents to innovate China's major internet companies are competing to envelop their users in self-contained universes where all of their needs can be met without having to leave the platform, from ordering takeaway and paying utility bills to investing in unit trusts and playing the latest online games. By having users "grab" virtual red packets, companies like Alibaba and Tencent are enticing users to stay glued to their smartphones, while luring new customers with potential monetary rewards. Alibaba said it will offer 1 billion yuan worth of digital hongbao through its Taobao Marketplace online shopping app from February 11 to 15. It said 600 million yuan of its digital cash giveaway next week will be disbursed on February 15, during the annual New Year's Gala special of state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). Taking electronic lai see to the next level That five-hour show, in which Alibaba is one of the major sponsors, has a yearly audience of more than 700 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV programme in the world - larger than the estimated 103 million viewers who saw the Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League, on Sunday in the United States.