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 reach into 335 million households all-around the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his household in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness, his son George claimed.

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

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable service, mostly by obtaining programming and constructing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with local cable units.

“After 60 days listed here, I advised my wife I didn’t imagine this point had a 20 per cent likelihood, since each and every time I turned around there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Moments in 1989. “I employed to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became rewarding inside 3 many years by featuring an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Moments set it, “might include things like a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a flip from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Instances in 1985. “There is a young technology that has under no circumstances observed any considered-provoking enjoyment on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever noticed classical new music.

“By community specifications,” he continued, “our viewership will generally be minimal. But that is the perform of cable — to existing sufficient possibilities so that persons can be their very own programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a wide blend of leisure and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identification with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to grow its scope to include things like documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could be categorized as an anthropological review 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 governing administration made him a chevalier of the Buy 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 govt vice chairman of Hearst, known as him “the father of the History Channel.”

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

After graduating from Bryant Substantial Faculty 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 College, wherever he achieved his long term 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. An additional son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information technological know-how at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A close friend introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable organization, who recruited him above lunch and experienced him indicator a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to perform there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served place the finishing touches on a merger among two struggling cable systems: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His strategy in the beginning was twofold: to target on building the community additional out there to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating unique packages, as an alternative concentrating on obtaining present kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of each and every new exhibit that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 interview with The Cable Middle, an academic arm of the cable sector.

“Our in general approach is to make a sane financial model,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to convey to people functioning for us that we really don’t eat at ‘21.’”