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 attain into 335 million households all around the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was troubles of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George explained.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He launched the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and general public affairs programming, endorsing it in the business and in appearances right before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable assistance, mainly by obtaining programming and developing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with regional cable methods.

“After 60 times right here, I told my wife I didn’t believe this thing experienced a 20 per cent opportunity, for the reason that just about every time I turned about there was yet another obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Occasions in 1989. “I employed to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become financially rewarding in just a few many years by presenting an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Times place it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a plan about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a switch from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Times in 1985. “There is a younger technology that has never witnessed any considered-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, but they’ve by no means observed classical songs.

“By network requirements,” he ongoing, “our viewership will generally be restricted. But that is the function of cable — to current plenty of options so that people today can be their possess programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It designed a singular identification with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to broaden its scope to involve documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well be categorized as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the History 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.

After his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, identified as 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 mom and dad had been from Greece. Each his mom and dad worked in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Large School in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s University, exactly where he satisfied his long term wife, 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 4 grandchildren. A further son, Christopher, died right before him.

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information know-how at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A friend launched him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him more than lunch and had him sign a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to function there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided place the finishing touches on a merger between two struggling cable methods: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the starting was twofold: to emphasis on making the network extra offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing unique courses, as a substitute focusing on getting current kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of just about every new display that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes stated in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an instructional arm of the cable field.

“Our in general technique is to create a sane economic design,” he reported in 1985. “I like to notify people today doing the job for us that we don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”