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

Kimberly R. Cammack

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable television networks A&E and the Record Channel, which now attain into 335 million homes all over the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his property in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was problems of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, at first the Arts & Amusement Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He introduced the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and community affairs programming, marketing it within the industry and in appearances before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, mainly by getting programming and making a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with neighborhood cable systems.

“After 60 days in this article, I instructed my spouse I didn’t assume this thing had a 20 p.c chance, since each and every time I turned close to there was a different obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Periods in 1989. “I made use of to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E became lucrative within just 3 several years by giving an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Instances put it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a plan about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief tale and a transform from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Situations in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has hardly ever witnessed any assumed-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve by no means viewed classical tunes.

“By community expectations,” he continued, “our viewership will normally be limited. But that is the purpose of cable — to present plenty of alternate options so that people can be their have programmers.”

Beneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad combine of leisure and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identification with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to increase its scope to involve documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which might be classified as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the National 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.

Just after his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, referred to 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 were being from Greece. The two his parents worked in the fur trade.

Following graduating from Bryant Significant University 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 fulfilled his foreseeable future spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse a further son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died prior to him.

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to info know-how at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A pal launched him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him around lunch and experienced him indicator a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Amusement Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped set the finishing touches on a merger amongst two battling cable techniques: the Enjoyment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the commencing was twofold: to target on producing the community a lot more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating first plans, as a substitute concentrating on acquiring present kinds.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of each new present that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes reported in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Centre, an academic arm of the cable industry.

“Our over-all method is to produce a sane financial product,” he stated in 1985. “I like to explain to persons functioning for us that we really do not eat at ‘21.’”

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