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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in building the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now access into 335 million homes around the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his household in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The result in was problems of Parkinson’s ailment, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief government 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 Tv Team. He introduced the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and community affairs programming, endorsing it within just the industry 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 purchasing programming and developing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with area cable programs.

“After 60 times below, I instructed my wife I did not assume this thing experienced a 20 % likelihood, simply because each time I turned about there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Moments in 1989. “I utilised to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned rewarding within just 3 decades by offering an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Situations set it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small story and a flip from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Times in 1985. “There is a youthful generation that has never ever observed any believed-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve witnessed a rock star destroying a guitar every 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever observed classical new music.

“By network criteria,” he continued, “our viewership will usually be limited. But that is the perform of cable — to present plenty of possibilities so that people can be their possess programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide combine of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular identity with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly popular co-generation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to expand its scope to include documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be labeled as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the Heritage 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 made him a chevalier of the Get of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Immediately after his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, named 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 mothers and fathers have been from Greece. Equally his parents worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant High College 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 College, exactly where he achieved his foreseeable future wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse a different son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. One more son, Christopher, died ahead of him.

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data engineering at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A pal introduced him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him above lunch and experienced him indicator a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, along with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped set the ending touches on a merger among two having difficulties cable units: the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the starting was twofold: to concentrate on making the community extra accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating first packages, in its place concentrating on obtaining existing types.

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

“Our all round strategy is to create a sane financial model,” he explained in 1985. “I like to notify men and women functioning for us that we never try to eat at ‘21.’”