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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in making the cable tv networks A&E and the Historical past Channel, which now arrive at into 335 million homes all-around the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

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

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief executive of A&E, at first the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He introduced the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for instructional and public affairs programming, marketing it in just the field and in appearances prior to Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, mostly by shopping for programming and setting up a bankable audience by negotiating distribution rights with local cable units.

“After 60 times here, I explained to my wife I didn’t imagine this factor experienced a 20 % likelihood, because each time I turned close to there was another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Occasions in 1989. “I used to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned successful within just a few many years by providing an eclectic menu of daily programming that, as The Instances place it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a software about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a turn from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We do not want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Instances in 1985. “There is a youthful technology that has hardly ever found any considered-provoking amusement on television. They’ve observed a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way found classical music.

“By network requirements,” he continued, “our viewership will normally be restricted. But that is the purpose of cable — to present ample options so that individuals can be their have programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It established a singular identification with scripted demonstrates (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

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

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

Immediately after his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 parents ended up from Greece. Both his mom and dad worked in the fur trade.

Following graduating from Bryant Large Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s College, wherever he fulfilled his future spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to information and facts technological innovation at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A buddy released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable corporation, who recruited him about lunch and had him signal a deal drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to function there in 1980, along with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped place the ending touches on a merger in between two battling cable devices: the Leisure Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the commencing was twofold: to concentration on building the community a lot more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating initial programs, as an alternative focusing on attaining existing ones.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of just about every new demonstrate that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes reported in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Heart, an instructional arm of the cable sector.

“Our in general tactic is to develop a sane financial model,” he stated in 1985. “I like to tell people doing work for us that we never eat at ‘21.’”