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

August Goude

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in generating the cable tv networks A&E and the Heritage Channel, which now reach into 335 million homes all over the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his household in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was complications of Parkinson’s condition, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, originally the Arts & Entertainment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He released the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and public affairs programming, marketing it within the marketplace 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 getting programming and constructing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with community cable units.

“After 60 times in this article, I explained to my wife I did not think this point experienced a 20 percent likelihood, because every single time I turned all over there was yet another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Periods in 1989. “I employed to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned rewarding in just three many years by featuring an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Periods put it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a method about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small story and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes told The Situations in 1985. “There is a more youthful technology that has never ever observed any thought-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever viewed classical tunes.

“By community benchmarks,” he ongoing, “our viewership will often be constrained. But that is the perform of cable — to present plenty of options so that individuals can be their have programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide combine of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It made a singular identification with scripted shows (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to increase its scope to incorporate documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may possibly be labeled as an anthropological study of compulsive stockpiling and the Record Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French governing administration created him a chevalier of the Get of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

After his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, known as 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 have been from Greece. The two his parents labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Superior Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, equally from St. John’s College, wherever he fulfilled his upcoming spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information know-how at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A good friend released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him around lunch and had him sign a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

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

His approach in the commencing was twofold: to emphasis on producing the network additional accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by creating first systems, as a substitute focusing on obtaining present ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 per cent of each individual new display that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Heart, an academic arm of the cable industry.

“Our over-all solution is to build a sane economic product,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to tell folks functioning for us that we really do not try to eat at ‘21.’”

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