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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in building the cable tv networks A&E and the Heritage Channel, which now arrive at into 335 million households all around the world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was problems of Parkinson’s disease, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Leisure Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He launched the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and community affairs programming, marketing it within just the market and in appearances prior to Congress.

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

“After 60 times below, I instructed my wife I did not assume this point experienced a 20 p.c prospect, for the reason that every single time I turned close to there was an additional obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Periods in 1989. “I used to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become worthwhile inside of a few decades by featuring an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Moments put it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie limited story and a change from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes told The Situations in 1985. “There is a young generation that has never ever seen any imagined-provoking leisure on television. They’ve observed a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever observed classical tunes.

“By network requirements,” he continued, “our viewership will always be limited. But that is the perform of cable — to existing adequate possibilities so that people today can be their possess programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad mix of amusement and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community continued to broaden its scope to incorporate documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be categorized as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Soon after his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 have been from Greece. Both of those his dad and mom labored in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Large School in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s College, where by he fulfilled his upcoming wife, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data technological innovation at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A buddy released him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him above lunch and experienced him indication a contract drawn on a cafe serviette. 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 served place the ending touches on a merger between two struggling cable techniques: the Entertainment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the starting was twofold: to emphasis on making the community much more available to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing original courses, alternatively focusing on getting present kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of each new exhibit that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Middle, an academic arm of the cable field.

“Our in general method is to produce a sane economic design,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to inform folks doing work for us that we really don’t eat at ‘21.’”