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

The bring about was problems of Parkinson’s condition, his son George said.

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

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable provider, largely by shopping for programming and constructing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with area cable programs.

“After 60 times here, I informed my wife I didn’t consider this point experienced a 20 p.c likelihood, for the reason that each and every time I turned all-around there was an additional obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Occasions in 1989. “I employed to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned profitable within just three decades by supplying an eclectic menu of daily programming that, as The Times set it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie quick tale and a convert from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We don’t want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Periods in 1985. “There is a more youthful generation that has never found any imagined-provoking entertainment on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve never noticed classical new music.

“By network benchmarks,” he continued, “our viewership will constantly be minimal. But that is the perform of cable — to present more than enough alternatives so that men and women can be their have programmers.”

Beneath the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide mix of amusement and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identity with scripted displays (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-liked co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to develop its scope to include documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could possibly be categorized as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the Heritage Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French govt created him a chevalier of the Get of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.

Just after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, named 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 moms and dads have been from Greece. Each his mothers and fathers worked in the fur trade.

Soon after graduating from Bryant Substantial University in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s College, in which he fulfilled his upcoming wife, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data technologies at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A close friend released him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable organization, who recruited him more than lunch and had him sign a contract drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes assisted place the finishing touches on a merger between two having difficulties cable programs: the Entertainment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller spouse and children, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the starting was twofold: to target on generating the network a lot more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by producing first plans, instead concentrating on obtaining existing types.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of each individual new demonstrate that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an academic arm of the cable field.

“Our overall tactic is to make a sane financial design,” he reported in 1985. “I like to notify folks operating for us that we never take in at ‘21.’”