Nickolas Davatzes, Force Behind A&E and the History Channel, Dies at 79
Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in creating the cable television networks A&E and the Historical past Channel, which now achieve into 335 million households all around the globe, died on Aug. 21 at his house in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.
The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George said.
Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, at first the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He released the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and public affairs programming, selling it inside of the sector and in appearances just before Congress.
By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, mainly by acquiring programming and building a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with community cable techniques.
“After 60 times in this article, I explained to my wife I did not feel this matter experienced a 20 p.c likelihood, due to the fact every single time I turned about there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Instances in 1989. “I applied to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”
But they did. A&E became rewarding in just 3 many years by presenting an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Periods set it, “might incorporate a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter story and a flip from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”
“We do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Situations in 1985. “There is a youthful technology that has in no way viewed any considered-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve observed a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever noticed classical songs.
“By community specifications,” he continued, “our viewership will constantly be constrained. But that is the purpose of cable — to current sufficient alternatives so that persons can be their have programmers.”
Underneath the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad combine of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It made a singular identification with scripted shows (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.
The community ongoing to increase its scope to consist of documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could be categorised as an anthropological research of compulsive stockpiling and the Record Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.
Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French govt created 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 dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, known as 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 parents were being from Greece. Both of those his parents labored in the fur trade.
Soon after graduating from Bryant Higher College in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s University, wherever he fulfilled his long run spouse, Dorothea Hayes.
In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife a different son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. Yet another son, Christopher, died just before him.
Immediately after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to information and facts know-how at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A close friend launched him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him indicator a contract drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to do the job there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.
The Arts & Enjoyment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided place the ending touches on a merger amongst two battling cable techniques: the Entertainment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.
His approach in the beginning was twofold: to target on creating the community extra out there to viewers, and not to be diverted by manufacturing primary packages, as a substitute focusing on acquiring current types.
“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of each and every new demonstrate that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes stated in a 2001 interview with The Cable Centre, an academic arm of the cable sector.
“Our general method is to develop a sane financial model,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to explain to folks functioning for us that we don’t take in at ‘21.’”