Panels

We are planning a wonderful set of panels for this year's conference with a leaders on the forefront of sports and analytics.  Panels and panelists are as follows:

2017 MIT SLOAN SPORTS ANALYTICS CONFERENCE Panels

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The process of evaluating professional basketball players is a constantly evolving art form that has mirrored shifts in the style of play. With paradigm shifts from frontcourt-based offense in the pre-Jordan era to a recent league-wide adoption of shooting three pointers, player evaluations have similarly had to adapt. However, the rapid onset of new data sources has provided a unique opportunity to enhance this process with more scientific grounding and potentially make it more predictive than reactive. In this panel, current WNBA players, front office executives, and basketball analysts will discuss how they expect player evaluation to mature with these new data sources, both in terms of internal and potential free agent evaluation, and where there is still room for growth going forward.
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Basketball is a team sport built around stars. Evidence from the last few decades show NBA Championships are won by great teams led by generational talents. However, a lone generational talent more often than not is not enough to win a championship. In this panel, Beyond the Foundation: Building a Team Around a Superstar, current NBA General Managers will discuss some of the challenges that come with building a team around a particular player’s gifts, maintaining success during the superstar’s prime, and walking the tight rope between winning today and compromising the future of the franchise.
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The decision to attend live sporting events has become increasingly complex. While some fans make last minute decisions and purchase their tickets from the secondhand market, others look to craft comprehensive experiences that extend far beyond the game on the field. Even in this day and age, there are still some who follow the more traditional season ticket holder model. These complexities have made analysis of fan behavior increasingly difficult and important as organizations seek to maximize revenues, create unique sporting experiences that outweigh the comfort of watching the games from home, and ensure that full stadiums cheer on the home team. This panel will focus on how companies have addressed these new challenges stemming from increasingly savvy consumers, while also examining how the ticket market will continue to evolve.
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We know the business of sports has grown and evolved rapidly over the last few years, but what’s next? How do sports leagues, franchises, athletes and partners react to this evolution and run their organizations to maximize impact and value for fans and athletes, both within the stadium and outside it? Where do analytics fit in? This panel will focus on what’s top of mind across the spectrum of the business of sports – the most pressing challenges, the responses and the insights that drive them, and the direction of the industry going forward. Our panelists include the most influential names from our biggest sports leagues, ticketing, omnichannel sports commerce, player representation, and top sports brands.
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The Career Panel provides a lively discussion on the skills vital in today’s sports industry and what analytical leaders are looking for in talent. Students and other sport industry prospectives will hear unique stories of entering and succeeding in sports from those both in industry and academia.
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The traditional competitive advantages from utilizing baseball data are largely gone. Use of Sabermetrics is ubiquitous in baseball: each team has an analytics department (albeit of varying size) that helps drive on-field decision making and player personnel decisions. Yet the arrival of instantaneous ball tracking data and player movement data has caused the industry to once again reevaluate how it values players, constructs rosters, and attempts to optimize on-field decision making. During this panel, baseball insiders will discuss how organizations are handling the ever-changing analytical landscape and where the industry goes from here.
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Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) continues to see tremendous growth across the globe. According to a recent Eilers & Krejcik Gaming study, the DFS market grew by 15% Y/Y (measured by net revenues) in 2016 and is expected to be a $5 billion industry by 2020. As DFS continues to grow, players are introduced to new sports and data that comes along with each athlete, team and league. So how do you know who to draft and what data should you pay attention to? This panel will feature a discussion between a diverse group of DFS players on the unique strategies they've used to create successful lineups. From academics to professional players, this group represents some of the top DFS performers who have won multiple DraftKings World Championships. These elite players will discuss the different ways they leverage fan data to be at the very top of the 7 million people who play DFS.
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These days, the best sports broadcasting and writing involve much more than background information, play-by-play recap, qualitative analysis, and summary statistics. Engaged viewers now have every bit of data at their fingertips, and sportscasters, analysts, and writers alike must be adept at blending data with the story in order to connect with their ever-more-informed fan base. In exploring how data has forced the media to change their preparation as well as investigating techniques for synthesizing data within the context of broader qualitative information, this panel, Data Driven Storytelling, will illustrate how sportscasters, writers, and analysts explore the broad challenges of balancing increasingly-complex information while maintaining appeal to the casual fan.
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It is no secret that the business of sport has proven to be an incredibly profitable enterprise in recent years. Like any other lucrative industry, success invites competition and consequently these new players have brought major disruptions to the sports landscape. In the last five years, daily fantasy sports have reached an unprecedented level of players and become a multi-billion dollar industry, streaming content has become a major avenue through which fans consume sports, analytics have been used in new and innovative ways across both player and business decisions, and eSports has seen exponential growth. This panel will introduce the masterminds behind some of these major disruptions, how they developed their strategies and how they have become so successful in the highly competitive world of sports.
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The ubiquity of technology has presented a distinct challenge for both sports leagues and teams. With the plethora of options available at one’s fingertips, it’s become increasingly difficult to attract and perhaps more importantly, keep today's fans interested in and engaged with the product. The most effective organizations meet these challenges of today, and rising to that challenge starts with crafting an amazing live experience where fans can do more than simply watch a game. It involves a mastery of social media, a clarity of brand, and a proficiency with data. The organizations that craft the content that will go viral overnight are the ones that position themselves for success in this new world. The appetite of the modern fan demands more: more engagement, more purposeful content, more ways to watch, more options, and fundamentally, more work from teams, leagues, and brands who wish to build upon the special relationship of being a fan. From the perspective of experts across the sports industry, this panel will discuss how these organizations are shaping the interaction with the modern fan.
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eSports is no longer up and coming; it’s here, and the future of the sport is evolving--with new leagues, tournaments and formats being created each year. There are now over 20 professional leagues, teams being sold for tens of millions of dollars, players receiving contracts of over $2.5 million and crowds of over 20,000 attending live eSports events such as the 2015 League of Legends final at Madison Square Garden. Game developers play a key role in this evolution, releasing new and exciting games ranging from multiplayer online battle arena (MOBAs) to first-person shooters (FPSs), that have taken the eSports community by storm. Buoyed by this sportwide growth, eSports team owners are building multiple teams to ensure coverage of all of the popular games, and these budding team owners compete to develop and retain the top eSports talent in the world. This panel will feature voices at the forefront of the eSports world, showcasing why its explosive growth has made it the hottest investment in professional sports.
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Sports organizations and their partners are rapidly evolving to understand the needs and behaviors of their fans. Today, customer knowledge and operations insights are altering how, what, when and where fans are engaged and their purchasing decisions influenced. Advances in technology and data have made it easier to track more aspects of game day, as well as broader engagement beyond the stadium with sponsors, in the digital world and beyond the sports experience. This deluge of data has been approached in a variety of ways to simplify the data, generate actionable insights, and use those insights to shift the business and improve the customer experience. The Fan Data Deluge panel brings together thought-leaders and innovators in ticketing, customer and business analytics who are transforming their business and the businesses of their partners.
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Fundamentally, sports are still about relationships, the way sports fans feel about their team. From the team perspective, there is a constant search for ways to increase the level of fan engagement in order to make those ties ever stronger because it’s just good business. However, it’s easier to cultivate these relationships over time and considerably more difficult when starting anew. This panel, Finding a New Home: Sports Teams in Transition, will discuss how teams enter new markets, brand themselves, and ultimately win over fans. Our panelists cover a wide variety of sports franchises in transition, with executives from franchises that have fully assimilated into a new community, returned to an original home, and created a team in a city with no prior professional teams.
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From the players to coaches and media, the development of advanced analytics has played a seminal role in the evolution of football. Broadcasters have begun incorporating new metrics during live coverage. GM’s are relying on new forms of analysis to evaluate players. Coaches have reimagined their in-game decision systems, moving towards more analytically driven play calling. Players have altered their training and film study regimens to become more efficient. These metrics have not been created in a vacuum, as thought leaders in analytics have converged to advance the football discussion. This panel brings together players, statisticians, writers and executives to discuss the current state of advanced analytics in today’s game.
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Fueled by technology and the ease of betting online, the sports gambling industry has seen tremendous growth over the past decade. However, should sports gambling ever become legal across the U.S., conservative estimates indicate it could be a $10 billion industry in the U.S. alone. This potential windfall is only likely to further increase interest in an industry that has been marked by innovation and an increased sophistication with data. In this panel, sports gambling analysts and executives will examine potential changes for sports betting in 2027, ranging from in-game, micro-betting and peer-to-peer stock avenues, and discuss the impact these changes will hold for the overall sports gambling industry.
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Widespread global usage of social media has increased pressure on writers to break stories faster than ever before. This has ushered in a new era of sports journalism, and with it, a new level of fame for certain sports media figures. Many sports fans look to Twitter and other social media channels to get up-to-the-minute updates on signings, injuries, and trades. This trend has been further fueled by fantasy sports, where analytically driven insights and the latest player updates can mean the difference between winning and losing. This demand has enabled many sports media figures to tout thousands, and even millions, of Twitter followers looking for breaking news and analysis. This panel will feature sport's most notable insiders, and will explore how they leverage their relationships and their networks to be one step ahead of everyone else.
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While every sport has seen advances in equipment technology, perhaps no sport has been more greatly affected than one of the oldest games, Golf. Between the advances in equipment, more refined teaching methods, and new training technology, players at every skill level have been able to hit the ball farther with ever increasing precision. Other new advances like machine learning and artificial intelligence are now being deployed to record millions of pieces of data and develop personalized recommendations to create more educated strategies to enhance player performance. This panel, Golf: Taking a New Approach, will discuss how technology is fundamentally changing the game particularly in light of how analytics influenced the 2016 Ryder Cup.
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Today sport is more global than ever before, with Olympic Games, World Cups, and World Championships all major drivers of revenues and fan interest. American professional leagues are also seeking to build new fan bases around the world. However, a series of corruption scandals have undermined public trust in the bodies governing international sport, with athletes and fans feeling the impact. This panel, featuring athletes, administrators, and legal experts, will address the key challenges facing the international sports community and how governance reform can address those challenges.
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The universal language of sports yields tremendous influence, as has been proven through the ability of professional sports to transcend cultural, political, and socioeconomic barriers. In recent years, the business of sports has unearthed various means to leverage the influential power of the game to advance environmental sustainability. Professional sports teams have collectively saved millions of dollars by shifting to more efficient and eco-friendly operations. Leagues, teams, and athletes have worked hard to reduce the environmental footprint of the game. At the same time, through advocation and implementation of sustainable practices, pro-sports have communicated pro-environmental messages to millions of fans worldwide. This panel will discuss how leaders in the green sports space dig deeper into the actual implementation of sustainable measures, the manner in which professionals can use data analytics to advance environmental sustainability, and how to maintain the integrity of the game while simultaneously pursuing a sustainable agenda.
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Though consumption of the major sports has trended up in both the U.S. and Canada, the individual leagues and teams have their targets fixed on something bigger, how to engage globally. Leagues and teams have taken different approaches to engaging the international fan. The NHL has players from around the world, but this year hosted its most successful iteration of the World Cup of Hockey which will now be a staple of the league’s calendar every 4 years. The NFL played in Mexico in 2016 and will extend its UK presence in 2017 with another game having established solid success with 3 games in 2016. Looking globally, the NBA has held preseason exhibitions around the world and will host regular season contests in Mexico City and London for the third straight year. Sports industry leaders from leagues and teams are working hand in hand to reach new markets, build their brand, manage new media rights, manage the health of the players and understand the unique culture of each new country. In globalizing the game, our global sports leaders will discuss the business opportunity as well as how they are managing the extended travel impact on participating teams.
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The ever-changing nature of the sports industry creates a multitude of investment opportunities, as leaders in the industry make concerted efforts to look toward the future and stay ahead of trends. This panel, Investing in the Future of Sports, features leaders and innovators shaping the future of sports with high growth investments in the sports industry. Our panelists represent a wide array of sports investors, with experience raising capital, acquiring businesses within sports through investments, leading companies through acquisitions and staying on top of the latest innovations. Topics in this panel include: future areas of revenue generation, the evolution and rise of eSports, the role of analytics, and leading change in the sports industry.
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Though the use of analytics in sports has made tremendous progress, soccer has seemed to lag in its widespread adoption. In this panel, we will analyze the current usage of analytics in soccer as well as its possible future opportunities. Player evaluation will be a critical focal point of this panel as it will seek to address how clubs scout and sign players and examine questions around the value of paying for stars versus internally developing talent. This panel will also examine how clubs find “value” in signing certain players and whether a Moneyball approach can be consistently applied to soccer. Pivoting from player evaluation, game strategy will also be a dominant theme. This panel will address how managers use data to create game plans for opponents and how they optimize their own players’ effectiveness while neutralizing their opponent’s attack. In short, this panel will address the current state of analytics in soccer but also look to the future in finding sources of competitive advantage.
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There are nearly half a million NCAA student-athletes on college campuses across the country, and over 97% will go pro in something other than their sport. With that in mind, a student-athlete’s ability to obtain his/her degree – in the face of extensive, year-round time commitments – is of the utmost importance. While coaches and administrators govern schedules, set standards, and ensure health and safety, athletes take control of their personal routines and habits in a delicate balance between studies and pursuit of excellent performance. This panel, Life of the College Student Athlete, will explore the current state of amateurism in the United States as well as the intersection of interests between schools and their athletes from the perspective of both former players and administrators.
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Like bad beats in poker, bad contracts are more vividly remembered by sports fans than the good ones that propel teams to playoff contention and championships. Unfortunately, everyday fans have little insight into the negotiation process between agents and the general managers, who represent their favorite team. From the agent's perspective, maximizing the player's on court earning potential is just one piece of the puzzle as market and team fit seem to matter more than ever before to today's athletes. Likewise, general managers are always looking to get players at the right price, ensuring that they don't limit their financial flexibility going forward by overpaying today. This panel will delve into the details of how deals get done.
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In spite of how human beings perceive themselves, we are inherently irrational creatures. Every day our choices are subject to a myriad of biases, many of which we don't even see. However, most of us aren't tasked with evaluating the talent that can make or break a billion dollar sports franchise. This panel will examine how lessons from behavioral economics can lead to better decision making.
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Player tracking data is being utilized more and more frequently by teams and leagues. Teams currently use this mountain of data to inform player selection, game strategy, player health and safety, and player development. The data has created significant advantages for the teams that have been able to turn the raw data into useful information. Sports media is now beginning to gain access to these new data sets and contemplating what kinds of content and tools can be created to enhance the fan experience. This discussion will explore what tools exist now and what player tracking will make possible in the future.
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Fundamentally disrupting live events and changing the way fans connect with their favorite talent, teams, brands and each other is the IoT technology as it permeates into sports. HEED, a joint venture created by data analytics trailblazer AGT International and sports and entertainment leader WME | IMG, integrates previously imperceptible insights and nuances across global sports and entertainment portfolio to provide for the unique understanding of human emotion and introduce the next generation of event experiences. Panelists will discuss the way IoT technology is being integrated into live events, such as Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and EuroLeague Basketball, and how the application of this innovative, data-driven approach to sports and entertainment brings people closer to their passions.
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Between the worlds of sports, politics, and investing, making accurate forecasts is crucial. Of course, forecasts only provide expectations that aggregate the probability of the different possible outcomes. Sometimes, as was the case with the recent presidential election, these expectations differ significantly from reality due to the occurrence of "less likely" events. This panel will address the current state of forecasting, how it is applied across sports, business and politics, and how we expect forecasting to evolve in the coming years.
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The NBA continues to pioneer new technologies, reach new fans, and globally expand their brand. From one of the leading voices on the value of data and the most progressive commissioner in sports, this panel, Silver Asks Silver, will be a wide ranging discussion that touches on topics like the current state of the NBA's expansion efforts and a comprehensive view of its path forward. It will also feature discussions around how the NBA uses data across all facets of its operations to continue to grow its brand both domestically and internationally as well as to find new monetization avenues. Silver Asks Silver will be an in-depth, behind the scenes look into what has made the NBA so successful to this point while also providing a vision of its future.
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The application of science by sports teams has been a gradual process, growing from a seldom used option to one that is now shaping the decisions of countless professional teams today. With such marked change in the use of sports science, especially within the last decade, teams and leagues alike are looking for the next breakthrough, whether in game-time preparation or injury prevention, that can help advance player performance and minimize team risk. In this panel, sports scientists from top professional teams and companies in sports tech will reflect on this rapid growth and discuss where they see the next breakthrough in sports science to be and what barriers to increased adoption could come into play.
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With advances in nutrition, training, and rest, athletes are enjoying longer and more productive careers than ever before. This panel, Sustaining Greatness, will focus on how athletes work hand in hand with entire teams of specialists to deliver peak performance. Panelists include athletes who have been at the top of their game for years and continue to perform at a high level, leaders in the field of wearables and tracking devices aimed at improving performance, and trainers who have worked with the best of the best to reach peak performance and raise the bar for what athletes can accomplish. This panel, Sustaining Greatness, will focus on how athletes work hand in hand with entire teams of specialists to deliver peak performance.
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While the Big 4 sports leagues have reached new levels of popularity and profitability, this success has not necessarily come easily. Issues like the safety of players, the technology that has affected the live game attendance and experience, and the increased scrutiny into players’ off field behavior pose challenges for every league. However, there are strategic hurdles also unique to each. For the MLB, this means filling stadiums for 162 games and addressing changing audience demographics. For the NFL, concerns about the impact of the sport on the brain and increasing reticence to put young athletes at risk has created controversy for a league that was previously minting money. For outside parties, these challenges provide an opportunity to work with the leagues to preserve the integrity and longevity of the game. This panel will provide the perspective of how leagues develop and implement their growth strategies to ensure they not only survive but thrive in spite of the obstacles they face.
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It’s no secret: the world of college sports is big business. While conference affiliations have seemed to stabilize in the short term, there is always the looming specter of change, particularly in light of the College Football Playoffs, where there are only 4 spots to share amongst the Power Five Conferences. For the conferences without the influx of money associated with a major football program, there are equally tricky paths that must be navigated to ensure continued growth for their collegiate athletic programs. All of these challenges bring opportunities for firms that specialize in solving these exact types of problems. This panel will discuss how different organizations work together to ensure that universities make the most out of their business opportunities in college sports without sacrificing the needs of student athletes.
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Hockey, and more specifically the NHL, has been increasingly active in the analytics space in recent years. Hockey analytics reached mainstream when the NHL partnered with SAP SE to create a statistical package that coincided with the launch of a new website featuring analytical statistics during the 2014-15 season. A relative newcomer to the sports analytics scene, there is a strong and growing contingent that is taking over at all levels of the game and pushing hockey to the next level. As the importance of data capture and utilization increases, third-party firms are popping up to develop new technologies and metrics in tandem with team’s building out quantitative player evaluation departments. This panel will explore common hockey metrics and potential new ones, how analytics is expanding both in the professional game and throughout the sport in general, and how the next phase of technology development and deployment will affect the game.
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Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are no longer cool technological diversions. On the business side, many in the sports industry believe VR could provide the next major revenue stream. Conversely, on the sports side, this technology is becoming increasing vital to everything from training players to making free agency pitches. This panel will explore how VR and AR are currently being used in sports, and address how these new pieces of tech can provide a competitive advantage to players, coaches, teams, and leagues. In addition, it will cover how VR and AR are changing the fan experience, what needs to be done to reach the everyday fan, and where the industry is headed next. This panel, The New Reality, will showcase why VR will be a staple of the sports experience for years to come.
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The almost universal presence of high speed Wi-Fi coupled with the availability of smartphones and tablets has begun to seriously impact the way fans consume sports media. While the cable model is not quite dead, based on all evidence from 2016, its continued decline seems inevitable. To address this issue, leagues and content providers are increasingly turning to technology companies like MLB Advanced Media to solve their digital needs. The WWE, once a staple of cable and pay per view TV, has reinvigorated itself with a streaming network, allowing it to directly reach its fans. Finally, of all of the individual sports leagues, it’s hardest to argue with the success that the NBA has had with its comprehensive investment in digital, as the league has soared in popularity largely as a product of the accessibility of its games to global audiences. This panel will tackle how these organizations will continue to thrive in the post-cable space and address all of the challenges that a seismic shift to streaming brings.
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In an era when the competitive landscape grows more complex by the day and the sports world is rapidly transforming, remaining an industry leader is more demanding than ever before. Nike has built a sports empire expanding beyond shoes and apparel to reach over $30 billion in revenue last year; Wasserman represents a diverse array of elite athletes and entertainers, enhancing their brand value and supporting their business ventures; Ticketmaster has driven growth and adaptation of the primary and secondary ticketing markets; and Fanatics is a key part of the Kynetic portfolio, driving growth and innovation in sports merchandise sales. This panel brings together top executives from these sports giants to address how they attained their current edge and their keys to sustained success.
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The application of analytics extends far beyond player evaluation and pre-game strategizing. Advances in data gathering and analysis are allowing teams across sports to make in-game adjustments to improve their odds of winning. The court, field, and ice have become laboratories for experimentation with game theory, player tracking data, and probability all factoring into the search for the optimal strategy or play. This panel draws on the expertise of representatives of the four major sports to examine how data is giving forward thinking teams an edge on game day.
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