May 29, 2022

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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in developing the cable television networks A&E and the Record Channel, which now get to into 335 million households about the world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was complications of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main government of A&E, at first the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He introduced the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and community affairs programming, advertising and marketing it within just the marketplace and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, largely by purchasing programming and setting up a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with nearby cable systems.

“After 60 days right here, I advised my wife I did not consider this thing experienced a 20 % likelihood, mainly because each time I turned about there was yet another obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Situations in 1989. “I used to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become successful in 3 several years by providing an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Situations set it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a program about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick tale and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We never want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Times in 1985. “There is a young generation that has hardly ever found any imagined-provoking amusement on tv. They’ve witnessed a rock star destroying a guitar every 16 minutes, but they’ve under no circumstances viewed classical music.

“By network criteria,” he ongoing, “our viewership will often be confined. But that is the functionality of cable — to current enough choices so that individuals can be their very own programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It established a singular identification with scripted displays (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly common 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 community ongoing to develop its scope to include things like documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well be categorised as an anthropological study of compulsive stockpiling and the Background Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French government 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.

Following his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, called him “the father of the Historical past Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose mothers and fathers were from Greece. Both his mothers and fathers labored in the fur trade.

Right after graduating from Bryant Substantial Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, equally from St. John’s College, wherever he satisfied his long term wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse a different son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. A further son, Christopher, died ahead of him.

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to info technologies at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A buddy launched him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him sign a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to get the job done there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped place the ending touches on a merger among two having difficulties cable units: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the beginning was twofold: to aim on building the network more available to viewers, and not to be diverted by manufacturing unique plans, rather concentrating on attaining present types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of each individual new present that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes claimed in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Heart, an educational arm of the cable industry.

“Our total technique is to make a sane economic product,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to convey to folks doing work for us that we really don’t eat at ‘21.’”