May 25, 2022

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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 attain into 335 million households all-around the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his property in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was problems of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George explained.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, originally the Arts & Amusement Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He released the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and public affairs programming, selling it inside the marketplace and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable service, mostly by acquiring programming and developing a bankable audience by negotiating distribution rights with community cable techniques.

“After 60 times below, I told my wife I didn’t think this thing had a 20 per cent chance, for the reason that each time I turned close to there was a further impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Occasions in 1989. “I made use of to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E became successful inside of 3 several years by offering an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Moments set it, “might involve a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a method about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie limited story and a convert from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We never want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Situations in 1985. “There is a youthful technology that has hardly ever witnessed any imagined-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever seen classical audio.

“By network specifications,” he ongoing, “our viewership will normally be confined. But that is the perform of cable — to existing ample choices so that persons can be their individual programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide blend of leisure and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted demonstrates (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-liked co-manufacturing with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to increase its scope to involve documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may possibly be labeled as an anthropological research 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 government built him a chevalier of the Purchase of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Soon after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, identified as him “the father of the Heritage Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose parents have been from Greece. The two his mothers and fathers worked in the fur trade.

Just after graduating from Bryant Significant College in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s College, wherever he met his upcoming wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse an additional son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died ahead of him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to data know-how at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A good friend introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him in excess of lunch and had him sign a deal drawn on a cafe serviette. He went to perform there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Network took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes aided put the finishing touches on a merger amongst two having difficulties cable methods: the Leisure Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the commencing was twofold: to concentration on producing the network much more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing authentic courses, alternatively concentrating on obtaining present kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of each and every new clearly show that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 interview with The Cable Centre, an academic arm of the cable business.

“Our overall method is to generate a sane financial product,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to convey to individuals performing for us that we don’t eat at ‘21.’”