November 28, 2022

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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 History Channel, which now achieve into 335 million households about the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The result in was difficulties of Parkinson’s condition, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, at first the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He launched the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and public affairs programming, advertising and marketing it inside of the field and in appearances before Congress.

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

“After 60 times right here, I explained to my spouse I did not imagine this matter had a 20 per cent prospect, because each individual time I turned close to there was an additional obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Moments in 1989. “I made use of to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E became successful within 3 a long time by featuring an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Instances place it, “might consist of a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a software about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter tale and a turn from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Times in 1985. “There is a younger generation that has by no means seen any thought-provoking enjoyment on tv. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve under no circumstances viewed classical new music.

“By network requirements,” he ongoing, “our viewership will always be minimal. But that is the functionality of cable — to existing more than enough possibilities so that individuals can be their very own programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide blend of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It made a singular identity with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community ongoing to extend its scope to consist of documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could be categorized as an anthropological examine of compulsive stockpiling and the Record Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Countrywide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French federal 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.

Following his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, identified as 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. Each his mothers and fathers worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Higher University 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, the place he met his long run spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to details technological innovation at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A mate introduced him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him more than lunch and had him indicator a deal drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to perform there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided place the finishing touches on a merger among two having difficulties cable programs: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His system in the starting was twofold: to target on creating the community a lot more accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing unique systems, as a substitute focusing on attaining existing types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of each individual new demonstrate that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Middle, an instructional arm of the cable sector.

“Our all round approach is to develop a sane financial model,” he reported in 1985. “I like to convey to individuals functioning for us that we don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”