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

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

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

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, originally the Arts & Leisure Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He launched the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and general public affairs programming, endorsing it inside the marketplace and in appearances before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable services, mainly by obtaining programming and setting up a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with local cable methods.

“After 60 days here, I instructed my wife I didn’t believe this detail had a 20 percent opportunity, simply because just about every time I turned around there was a further impediment,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Periods in 1989. “I applied to say that we had been like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E became profitable in just three years by presenting an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Times place it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie limited story and a change from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

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

“By network criteria,” he continued, “our viewership will usually be limited. But that is the operate of cable — to current plenty of alternate options so that people can be their own programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a wide mix of amusement and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular id with scripted shows (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly preferred co-manufacturing 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 ongoing to expand its scope to include things like documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may possibly be categorised 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 govt produced 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 demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 dad and mom were from Greece. Each his moms and dads labored in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Higher Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, each from St. John’s College, in which he achieved his foreseeable future spouse, 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 four grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died in advance of him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to data technological know-how at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A buddy launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable organization, who recruited him more than lunch and experienced him indication a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, along with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Network took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided put the ending touches on a merger between two battling cable systems: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the beginning was twofold: to target on building the network more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing unique programs, as a substitute concentrating on attaining present ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 per cent of every single new demonstrate that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes reported in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an academic arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our over-all solution is to produce a sane financial model,” he said in 1985. “I like to inform men and women functioning for us that we really don’t consume at ‘21.’”