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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in creating the cable television networks A&E and the Historical past Channel, which now access into 335 million homes around the planet, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The cause was troubles of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George stated.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Amusement Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He introduced the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and general public affairs programming, promoting it inside the industry and in appearances right before Congress.

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

“After 60 times right here, I told my wife I did not imagine this issue experienced a 20 percent probability, because just about every time I turned around there was a further impediment,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Moments in 1989. “I applied to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned rewarding in just three yrs by supplying an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Moments put it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief tale and a change from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Moments in 1985. “There is a more youthful era that has by no means observed any believed-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve by no means seen classical songs.

“By community criteria,” he continued, “our viewership will always be confined. But that is the perform of cable — to current more than enough alternatives so that people today can be their have programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a wide blend of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular identification with scripted displays (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly preferred co-generation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to expand its scope to incorporate documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which might be categorized as an anthropological review of compulsive stockpiling and the Historical past 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 Order of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Immediately after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, called him “the father of the Background Channel.”

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

Following graduating from Bryant Superior University in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both equally from St. John’s College, the place he fulfilled his long run wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife another son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died right before 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 Units in 1978. A friend introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him more than lunch and experienced him signal a contract drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Amusement Network took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided set the ending touches on a merger among two struggling cable techniques: the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His strategy in the starting was twofold: to aim on making the community extra offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing original applications, as an alternative focusing on obtaining present types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of each individual new exhibit that goes on the air usually fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an educational arm of the cable market.

“Our total approach is to develop a sane financial model,” he reported in 1985. “I like to inform folks operating for us that we really don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”