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 Background Channel, which now reach into 335 million homes all-around the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his property in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The bring about was complications of Parkinson’s illness, his son George said.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Leisure Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He introduced the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for instructional and public affairs programming, advertising it inside of the sector and in appearances right before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, mainly by purchasing programming and making a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with neighborhood cable programs.

“After 60 days right here, I instructed my wife I did not imagine this point experienced a 20 percent opportunity, for the reason that each individual time I turned all over there was another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Periods in 1989. “I utilized to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned financially rewarding inside a few decades by offering an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Moments set it, “might consist of a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief story and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Situations in 1985. “There is a more youthful generation that has under no circumstances witnessed any thought-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way seen classical tunes.

“By community expectations,” he continued, “our viewership will always be limited. But that is the function of cable — to current sufficient alternatives so that individuals can be their have programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide mix of leisure and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular id with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly preferred co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to extend its scope to involve documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be labeled 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 authorities made him a chevalier of the Buy of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Following his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, named him “the father of the Background 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 of those his dad and mom worked in the fur trade.

Following graduating from Bryant Higher College in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s University, where he achieved his long term spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to data technologies at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A mate released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him signal a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served place the ending touches on a merger concerning two struggling cable devices: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the starting was twofold: to concentrate on earning the network much more readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating authentic courses, instead concentrating on getting existing ones.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 % of each new display that goes on the air normally fails,” Mr. Davatzes reported in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Middle, an educational arm of the cable sector.

“Our over-all solution is to generate a sane financial product,” he said in 1985. “I like to inform people functioning for us that we never take in at ‘21.’”

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