September 24, 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 Record Channel, which now attain into 335 million households all over the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his household in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The trigger was difficulties of Parkinson’s sickness, his son George said.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief government of A&E, originally the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint undertaking of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He released the Background Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for instructional and public affairs programming, promoting it within just the marketplace and in appearances prior to Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, largely by buying programming and developing a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with local cable methods.

“After 60 times listed here, I told my wife I didn’t consider this issue had a 20 p.c probability, mainly because each and every time I turned close to there was a different impediment,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Situations in 1989. “I made use of to say that we had been like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became financially rewarding within just three several years by giving an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Situations set it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small story and a transform from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Occasions in 1985. “There is a youthful generation that has by no means noticed any believed-provoking entertainment on television. They’ve observed a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve under no circumstances seen classical audio.

“By network requirements,” he ongoing, “our viewership will usually be restricted. But that is the perform of cable — to existing adequate solutions so that people can be their have programmers.”

Less than the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide mix of enjoyment and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted displays (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network continued to increase its scope to contain documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be categorised as an anthropological research 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 government 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.

Soon after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, referred to 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 have been from Greece. Each his parents worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Substantial Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both equally from St. John’s University, exactly where he satisfied his long term spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his spouse one more son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died before him.

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data know-how at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A friend launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable company, who recruited him more than lunch and had him indicator a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to function there in 1980, along with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes assisted set the ending touches on a merger involving two battling cable techniques: the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the starting was twofold: to focus on earning the network additional accessible to viewers, and not to be diverted by making initial systems, as a substitute concentrating on acquiring current types.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of each and every new exhibit that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an instructional arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our over-all strategy is to create a sane financial product,” he said in 1985. “I like to inform people today doing work for us that we really do not consume at ‘21.’”