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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in developing the cable television networks A&E and the Historical past Channel, which now access into 335 million homes all over the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his property in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The trigger was difficulties of Parkinson’s disease, his son George stated.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, at first the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He launched the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and community affairs programming, advertising and marketing it within the field and in appearances before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable service, largely by obtaining programming and making a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with local cable methods.

“After 60 days here, I advised my spouse I didn’t imagine this factor experienced a 20 per cent likelihood, mainly because each time I turned about there was another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes told The New York Occasions in 1989. “I made use of to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned worthwhile within just a few several years by giving an eclectic menu of every day programming that, as The Occasions place it, “might involve a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie short tale and a change from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We never want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Moments in 1985. “There is a young technology that has never ever seen any assumed-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve never viewed classical music.

“By network criteria,” he ongoing, “our viewership will constantly be minimal. But that is the functionality of cable — to present more than enough options so that folks can be their individual programmers.”

Beneath the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It created a singular id with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-generation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to develop its scope to include things like documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well be categorised as an anthropological research of compulsive stockpiling and the Historical past Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French authorities manufactured him a chevalier of the Purchase of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

After his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, named him “the father of the Background Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose moms and dads were from Greece. The two his mothers and fathers labored in the fur trade.

Immediately after graduating from Bryant High College 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 University, where by he met his foreseeable future 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. A further son, Christopher, died just before him.

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information technological innovation at Intext Communications Programs in 1978. A good friend introduced him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him more than lunch and experienced him signal a contract drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to do the job there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped put the ending touches on a merger involving two having difficulties cable devices: the Leisure Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller spouse and children, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His system in the starting was twofold: to concentrate on creating the community additional accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing initial plans, in its place concentrating on getting existing kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 per cent of every new display that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Centre, an instructional arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our general solution is to build a sane economic product,” he said in 1985. “I like to notify people performing for us that we really do not consume at ‘21.’”