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Sweeps - Period of the year used by the television industry to determine how much they can charge advertisers for commercial air time.

The sweeps periods occur four times a year for a period of four-week each from October-November, February-March, April-May, and a fourth mid-summer sweeps.

The stations which get the highest ratings can command the highest prices. A difference in just one point can be worth millions of dollars. (one point equals 109,600,000 TV households)

Frequently during these sweep periods, the programming on television gets very provocative with topics dealing heavily with sex, or violence. Prostitutes, male strippers, married ex-nuns, Nazi's or in-depth studies into cult religious groups become popular teaser topics to attract large audiences.

The term “sweep” originated in the 1950s, when Nielsen Media Research mailed and processed diaries to sample households, starting with the East Coast and “sweeping” across the nation.

A.C. Nielsen and Arbitron are the two major rating services who evaluate these sweeps periods.

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