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 Background Channel, which now achieve into 335 million households all over the globe, died on Aug. 21 at his house in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The lead to was issues of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief government of A&E, originally the Arts & Amusement Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He released the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and general public affairs programming, promoting it inside the sector and in appearances just before Congress.

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

“After 60 days listed here, I explained to my wife I didn’t assume this point had a 20 % likelihood, since every time I turned all over there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Times in 1989. “I applied to say that we had been like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became profitable within a few a long time by offering an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Instances set it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick tale and a turn from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Times in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has in no way viewed any imagined-provoking leisure on television. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever viewed classical audio.

“By community criteria,” he ongoing, “our viewership will often be constrained. But that is the functionality of cable — to present adequate alternatives so that people today can be their personal programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad combine of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community ongoing to expand its scope to include documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could be classified as an anthropological analyze 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 federal government designed him a chevalier of the Buy of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Just after his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, known as him “the father of the History Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose mom and dad ended up from Greece. Both his moms and dads labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Significant School in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, each from St. John’s University, where he fulfilled his upcoming wife, 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. A further son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to information and facts technologies at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A mate launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him indicator a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Network took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided put the ending touches on a merger concerning two battling cable programs: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the starting was twofold: to concentration on making the community extra accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by making original plans, in its place concentrating on attaining current kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 % of each individual new demonstrate that goes on the air normally fails,” Mr. Davatzes claimed in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Center, an instructional arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our total tactic is to make a sane economic design,” he reported in 1985. “I like to explain to persons working for us that we never consume at ‘21.’”