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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable tv networks A&E and the Record Channel, which now access into 335 million households around the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was difficulties of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George explained.

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

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable service, largely by purchasing programming and building a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with nearby cable units.

“After 60 days below, I told my wife I didn’t assume this factor experienced a 20 p.c prospect, simply because each and every time I turned about there was one more obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes told The New York Situations in 1989. “I applied to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become financially rewarding within 3 many years by giving an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Situations put it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a method about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small story and a convert from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We don’t want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Times in 1985. “There is a younger technology that has hardly ever observed any considered-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever noticed classical tunes.

“By network standards,” he ongoing, “our viewership will constantly be confined. But that is the operate of cable — to existing enough alternate options so that people today can be their own programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a wide blend of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular identity with scripted exhibits (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to broaden its scope to include things like documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well be categorized as an anthropological study of compulsive stockpiling and the Background Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Countrywide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French govt created him a chevalier of the Buy of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Immediately after his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, called 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 mother and father had been from Greece. Both his mother and father worked in the fur trade.

Following graduating from Bryant Higher School in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s College, in which he satisfied his future spouse, 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 4 grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died ahead of him.

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to details technological innovation at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A close friend released him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him about lunch and had him indicator a deal drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

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

His method in the commencing was twofold: to emphasis on earning the network extra accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating primary plans, rather focusing on getting current types.

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

“Our general approach is to create a sane financial design,” he explained in 1985. “I like to explain to people today performing for us that we do not try to eat at ‘21.’”