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 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 cause was issues of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George said.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, at first the Arts & Enjoyment Network, 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 instructional and general public affairs programming, selling it in just the market and in appearances right before Congress.

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

“After 60 days in this article, I advised my spouse I did not believe this issue experienced a 20 p.c opportunity, since just about every time I turned all-around there was an additional obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Moments in 1989. “I utilized to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned worthwhile inside of 3 yrs by supplying an eclectic menu of every day programming that, as The Situations put it, “might consist of a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Times in 1985. “There is a youthful generation that has in no way found any assumed-provoking entertainment on television. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, but they’ve never witnessed classical music.

“By community standards,” he continued, “our viewership will generally be minimal. But that is the operate of cable — to current enough alternatives so that people can be their personal programmers.”

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

The network continued to grow its scope to include documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be classified as an anthropological examine 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 govt created him a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

After his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, referred to as him “the father of the Record Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose mother and father were from Greece. Both his dad and mom worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Superior School in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, equally from St. John’s College, the place he met his foreseeable future spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information and facts technologies at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A buddy introduced him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable corporation, who recruited him in excess of lunch and experienced him indication a deal drawn on a restaurant serviette. He went to get the job done there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided set the finishing touches on a merger between two having difficulties cable systems: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller spouse and children, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His system in the commencing was twofold: to focus on producing the community more readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing first programs, in its place concentrating on getting current types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 per cent of just about every new clearly show that goes on the air usually fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 interview with The Cable Middle, an academic arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our total solution is to make a sane economic design,” he stated in 1985. “I like to notify men and women performing for us that we really don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”