June 4, 2023

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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable television networks A&E and the History Channel, which now attain into 335 million homes around the world, died on Aug. 21 at his dwelling in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was problems of Parkinson’s ailment, his son George mentioned.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief executive of A&E, originally the Arts & Enjoyment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He launched the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for instructional and community affairs programming, marketing it in just the field and in appearances right before Congress.

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

“After 60 days listed here, I advised my spouse I didn’t think this detail experienced a 20 % prospect, simply because each time I turned about there was a further impediment,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Occasions in 1989. “I made use of to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became financially rewarding in a few several years by providing an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Periods place it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick tale and a flip from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Instances in 1985. “There is a younger technology that has by no means seen any considered-provoking entertainment on television. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar every 16 minutes, but they’ve by no means noticed classical music.

“By community standards,” he ongoing, “our viewership will usually be constrained. But that is the perform of cable — to current adequate choices so that folks can be their own programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of leisure and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identification with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to expand its scope to contain documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could possibly be labeled as an anthropological examine of compulsive stockpiling and the Historical past 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 built him a chevalier of the Buy of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Soon after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, called him “the father of the Record 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 being from Greece. Both of those his mothers and fathers labored in the fur trade.

Just after graduating from Bryant Superior Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both equally from St. John’s University, wherever he satisfied his upcoming spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data technological innovation at Intext Communications Programs in 1978. A friend launched him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him in excess of lunch and had him sign a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to function there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped put the finishing touches on a merger between two having difficulties cable methods: the Amusement Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His approach in the beginning was twofold: to emphasis on producing the community additional offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing initial packages, alternatively concentrating on acquiring existing ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 per cent of just about every new show that goes on the air normally fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an instructional arm of the cable sector.

“Our over-all method is to develop a sane economic model,” he stated in 1985. “I like to convey to folks doing the job for us that we never take in at ‘21.’”