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

Marie C. Delgado

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in making the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now get to into 335 million homes all around the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The trigger was problems of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George said.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He introduced the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and general public affairs programming, promoting it in just the sector and in appearances ahead of Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable provider, mainly by purchasing programming and building a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with area cable systems.

“After 60 days here, I told my wife I didn’t think this factor experienced a 20 % chance, simply because each time I turned close to there was a different impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Situations in 1989. “I utilized to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become profitable inside 3 several years by supplying an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Times put it, “might consist of a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a program about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter tale and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Instances in 1985. “There is a young generation that has hardly ever seen any believed-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way witnessed classical tunes.

“By community specifications,” he continued, “our viewership will normally be confined. But that is the operate of cable — to current ample solutions so that men and women can be their individual programmers.”

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

The network continued to develop its scope to include documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may possibly be categorised as an anthropological research 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 govt made him a chevalier of the Get of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Just after his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 dad and mom had been from Greece. Both his mom and dad labored in the fur trade.

Following graduating from Bryant Superior University in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s College, wherever he satisfied his future wife, 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. An additional son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to details technological know-how at Intext Communications Methods in 1978. A pal launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable corporation, who recruited him over lunch and experienced him indicator a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Amusement Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes assisted place the ending touches on a merger between two having difficulties cable devices: the Leisure Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the commencing was twofold: to concentrate on generating the community more out there to viewers, and not to be diverted by creating original applications, as an alternative focusing on obtaining present types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 % of each and every new present that goes on the air typically fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Center, an instructional arm of the cable business.

“Our over-all strategy is to develop a sane financial model,” he explained in 1985. “I like to convey to men and women performing for us that we really do not try to eat at ‘21.’”

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