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 Historical past Channel, which now arrive at into 335 million homes all around the world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The lead to was difficulties of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He released the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and general public affairs programming, marketing it inside the sector and in appearances in advance of Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable assistance, largely by shopping for programming and constructing a bankable audience by negotiating distribution rights with regional cable devices.

“After 60 times here, I advised my wife I didn’t assume this factor had a 20 % likelihood, since each and every time I turned all over there was yet another obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Times in 1989. “I utilised to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became successful inside of a few yrs by giving an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Instances put it, “might involve a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief story and a transform from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Periods in 1985. “There is a young era that has in no way noticed any imagined-provoking amusement on television. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve never witnessed classical audio.

“By network standards,” he continued, “our viewership will always be confined. But that is the functionality of cable — to present plenty of alternate options so that men and women can be their very own programmers.”

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

The community ongoing to expand its scope to involve documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could possibly be labeled as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Immediately after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, called 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 were being from Greece. Each his mom and dad worked in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Higher Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s College, in which he fulfilled his long term wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse yet another son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. Yet another son, Christopher, died right before him.

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information know-how at Intext Communications Programs in 1978. A close friend released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him over lunch and experienced him indication a agreement drawn on a cafe serviette. He went to do the job there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped set the ending touches on a merger between two having difficulties cable programs: the Enjoyment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the starting was twofold: to target on generating the community far more out there to viewers, and not to be diverted by creating original programs, as an alternative focusing on getting existing types.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 per cent of each new show that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Middle, an academic arm of the cable business.

“Our all round technique is to create a sane economic design,” he stated in 1985. “I like to explain to people today operating for us that we really don’t eat at ‘21.’”