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At its essence, the purpose of Nielsen Media Research is to keep track of who watches what.  By tracking the TV program choices of 12,000 homes, they are able to learn which shows are most popular, thus influencing advertising rates and program continuation.  They recently announced that they will triple the size of their sample to 37,000 households with 100,000 people. 

According to their press release, this move is part of their Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement (A2/M2) initiative, which "seeks to
measure televised video as it moves beyond the television set in the
home to the Internet, hand-held devices and to platforms outside the
house." 

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