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

Edna B. Shearer

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in generating the cable television networks A&E and the Historical past Channel, which now access into 335 million households close to the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The cause was issues of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He released the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and public affairs programming, advertising and marketing it inside of the market and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, largely by buying programming and setting up a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with regional cable programs.

“After 60 times listed here, I informed my wife I didn’t consider this thing experienced a 20 percent prospect, for the reason that each and every time I turned all-around there was one more obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Moments in 1989. “I made use of to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become financially rewarding in three decades by supplying an eclectic menu of daily programming that, as The Times set it, “might involve a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie limited story and a turn from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes told The Moments in 1985. “There is a young generation that has hardly ever seen any considered-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way noticed classical music.

“By community requirements,” he continued, “our viewership will constantly be confined. But that is the perform of cable — to existing enough solutions so that folks can be their have programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad blend of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular id with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-liked co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to broaden its scope to incorporate documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could be labeled as an anthropological research of compulsive stockpiling and the Background 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 designed him a chevalier of the Buy of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Soon after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government 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 moms and dads were from Greece. Both his mother and father labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Higher University in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s University, exactly where he satisfied 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 four grandchildren. An additional son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to info technological innovation at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A friend launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him more than lunch and had him sign a contract drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to function there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided set the ending touches on a merger among two having difficulties cable methods: the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His strategy in the commencing was twofold: to aim on making the community a lot more offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by making unique packages, alternatively concentrating on buying existing ones.

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

“Our over-all approach is to build a sane financial model,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to tell persons working for us that we really do not take in at ‘21.’”

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