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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable television networks A&E and the Heritage Channel, which now attain into 335 million households all-around the earth, 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 executive 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 Tv Team. He launched the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and general public affairs programming, marketing it within just the market and in appearances before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, largely by buying programming and making a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with local cable techniques.

“After 60 times below, I instructed my spouse I did not assume this issue had a 20 percent opportunity, mainly because every time I turned about there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Periods in 1989. “I employed to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned successful within three yrs by giving an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Periods set it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick story and a turn from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Situations in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has by no means seen any thought-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever noticed classical new music.

“By network benchmarks,” he ongoing, “our viewership will constantly be minimal. But that is the perform of cable — to current sufficient alternatives so that folks can be their possess programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identity with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly popular co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community continued to increase its scope to include documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could possibly be categorized as an anthropological examine of compulsive stockpiling and the Heritage Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Immediately after his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, identified as him “the father of the Heritage Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose parents were being from Greece. Equally his parents worked in the fur trade.

Right after graduating from Bryant Significant School in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s College, where he satisfied his upcoming spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife a different son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. An additional son, Christopher, died just before him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to details technology at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A mate introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him above lunch and had him signal a agreement drawn on a restaurant serviette. He went to perform there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served place the finishing touches on a merger between two struggling cable programs: the Entertainment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His strategy in the beginning was twofold: to concentration on creating the network additional readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating first courses, as a substitute focusing on buying present kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 per cent of each new display that goes on the air normally fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an educational arm of the cable sector.

“Our all round technique is to develop a sane economic model,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to convey to men and women performing for us that we do not eat at ‘21.’”