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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in making the cable tv networks A&E and the History Channel, which now arrive at into 335 million households all around the planet, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was problems of Parkinson’s condition, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main government of A&E, at first the Arts & Leisure Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He released the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and public affairs programming, selling it in just the marketplace and in appearances right before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, mainly by acquiring programming and constructing a bankable audience by negotiating distribution rights with regional cable techniques.

“After 60 times below, I explained to my spouse I did not think this point had a 20 p.c opportunity, since every time I turned all-around there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Periods in 1989. “I applied to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become worthwhile in 3 several years by offering an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Situations set it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a plan about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a transform from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Occasions in 1985. “There is a younger generation that has never ever noticed any thought-provoking amusement on tv. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever noticed classical songs.

“By community expectations,” he continued, “our viewership will always be confined. But that is the perform of cable — to current adequate alternatives so that folks can be their very own programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It established a singular identity with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-liked co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to extend its scope to include things like documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be categorized as an anthropological study of compulsive stockpiling and the Background Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Right after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, referred to as him “the father of the Heritage Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose mothers and fathers were from Greece. Both his mom and dad labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Substantial University in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s University, the place he met his potential 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 prior to him.

Following serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to info technologies at Intext Communications Programs in 1978. A friend released him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him over lunch and experienced him indication a agreement drawn on a restaurant serviette. He went to operate there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided place the finishing touches on a merger involving two having difficulties cable programs: the Amusement Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the commencing was twofold: to target on producing the community more out there to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating original systems, instead focusing on acquiring current ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of every new exhibit that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Middle, an instructional arm of the cable industry.

“Our all round solution is to create a sane financial design,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to convey to folks functioning for us that we don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”