Nickolas Davatzes, Force Behind A&E and the History Channel, Dies at 79

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in building the cable television networks A&E and the Record Channel, which now attain into 335 million households all around the world, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was difficulties of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George stated.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He introduced the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and public affairs programming, marketing it inside of the field and in appearances right before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable provider, largely by obtaining programming and building a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with regional cable programs.

“After 60 times here, I explained to my wife I didn’t believe this detail experienced a 20 % prospect, simply because just about every time I turned close to there was a further obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Occasions in 1989. “I employed to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became financially rewarding within a few a long time by offering an eclectic menu of every day programming that, as The Moments put it, “might include things like a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter story and a turn from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Moments in 1985. “There is a younger technology that has under no circumstances viewed any imagined-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar every 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever viewed classical songs.

“By community expectations,” he ongoing, “our viewership will constantly be constrained. But that is the function of cable — to existing enough possibilities so that people today can be their personal programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of amusement and nonfiction programming. It designed a singular identity with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly preferred co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community ongoing to develop its scope to contain documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be categorized as an anthropological study of compulsive stockpiling and the Historical past Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French authorities designed him a chevalier of the Get of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

After his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, termed him “the father of the Background Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose mother and father had been from Greece. Equally his mom and dad labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Superior Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s University, where he achieved his foreseeable future spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife an additional son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to details technology at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A mate introduced him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable organization, who recruited him about lunch and had him signal a contract drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to function there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Network took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped put the ending touches on a merger amongst two battling cable methods: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the commencing was twofold: to target on producing the community a lot more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing original applications, in its place concentrating on acquiring present ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 % of every single new show that goes on the air usually fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 interview with The Cable Middle, an educational arm of the cable sector.

“Our total method is to develop a sane financial design,” he explained in 1985. “I like to explain to men and women operating for us that we do not consume at ‘21.’”