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


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

The result in was troubles of Parkinson’s disease, his son George stated.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, originally the Arts & Leisure Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He launched the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and general public affairs programming, advertising it within just the sector and in appearances ahead of Congress.

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

“After 60 times listed here, I informed my wife I did not believe this factor had a 20 p.c probability, for the reason that each time I turned all over there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Periods in 1989. “I made use of to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become profitable inside a few many years by presenting an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Situations set it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief story and a transform from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We don’t want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Instances in 1985. “There is a younger technology that has never observed any imagined-provoking entertainment on television. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever viewed classical new music.

“By community standards,” he continued, “our viewership will always be constrained. But that is the function of cable — to current enough alternatives so that people can be their own programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad combine of amusement and nonfiction programming. It designed a singular id with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly popular 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 community ongoing to extend its scope to include things like documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may possibly be labeled 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 made him a chevalier of the Purchase of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Right after his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, known as 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. Each his mom and dad worked in the fur trade.

Just after graduating from Bryant Superior University 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 University, wherever he satisfied his long run spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife yet another son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. An additional son, Christopher, died before him.

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to information technology at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A pal launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him in excess of lunch and experienced him signal a agreement drawn on a restaurant serviette. He went to operate there in 1980, together with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served place the finishing touches on a merger between two battling cable units: the Enjoyment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the beginning was twofold: to concentration on building the network additional accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating unique courses, in its place focusing on getting current kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 per cent of each and every new display that goes on the air usually fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Heart, an academic arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our overall technique is to develop a sane economic product,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to convey to persons performing for us that we never take in at ‘21.’”

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