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 homes about the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The cause was troubles of Parkinson’s condition, his son George stated.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main government of A&E, initially the Arts & Enjoyment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He launched the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and general public affairs programming, selling it within just the marketplace and in appearances prior to Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, mainly by getting programming and setting up a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with neighborhood cable systems.

“After 60 days listed here, I instructed my spouse I did not feel this thing had a 20 % possibility, due to the fact each time I turned all-around there was one more impediment,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Periods in 1989. “I utilized to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned lucrative within just 3 many years by giving an eclectic menu of daily programming that, as The Periods put it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a plan about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick story and a convert from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We never want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Periods in 1985. “There is a more youthful era that has in no way witnessed any considered-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way seen classical new music.

“By community benchmarks,” he ongoing, “our viewership will often be restricted. But that is the perform of cable — to current plenty of solutions so that individuals can be their personal programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mix of leisure and nonfiction programming. It designed a singular id with scripted displays (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to expand its scope to include things like documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which might be labeled as an anthropological review of compulsive stockpiling and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Right after his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, referred to as him “the father of the Historical past Channel.”

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

Following graduating from Bryant Significant Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s College, exactly where he achieved his long run spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife another son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. Yet another son, Christopher, died before him.

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to facts engineering at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A friend released him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him indicator a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to perform there in 1980, together with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped put the finishing touches on a merger amongst two struggling cable programs: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the commencing was twofold: to concentration on building the community far more readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating primary systems, instead focusing on obtaining current kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of every single new show that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes claimed in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an instructional arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our total method is to build a sane financial model,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to notify men and women doing the job for us that we never take in at ‘21.’”