February 23, 2024


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Nickolas Davatzes, Force Behind A&E and the History Channel, Dies at 79

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in generating the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now arrive at into 335 million households close to the entire world, died on Aug. 21 at his home in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was issues of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, originally the Arts & Leisure Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He introduced the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and public affairs programming, advertising it in just the industry and in appearances in advance of Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable assistance, mostly by acquiring programming and making a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with regional cable devices.

“After 60 days in this article, I advised my spouse I did not imagine this thing experienced a 20 % chance, for the reason that each and every time I turned about there was one more impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Occasions in 1989. “I employed to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned worthwhile inside of 3 a long time by offering an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Instances place it, “might include things like a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie short story and a transform from the stand-up comedian Excitement Belmondo.”

“We do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Situations in 1985. “There is a younger era that has by no means noticed any considered-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve witnessed a rock star destroying a guitar just about every 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever noticed classical audio.

“By network criteria,” he ongoing, “our viewership will constantly be restricted. But that is the purpose of cable — to current more than enough options so that persons can be their have programmers.”

Beneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a wide mix of leisure and nonfiction programming. It established a singular id with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to grow its scope to consist of documentary sequence like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which might be categorized as an anthropological analyze of compulsive stockpiling and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Nationwide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French governing administration made him a chevalier of the Get 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 govt vice chairman of Hearst, known as him “the father of the Background 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 were from Greece. Both his mother and father labored in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant High Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both of those from St. John’s University, wherever he satisfied his potential wife, 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 four grandchildren. A different son, Christopher, died just before him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to data know-how at Intext Communications Programs in 1978. A pal launched him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him about lunch and had him indication a contract drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to do the job there in 1980, alongside cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served place the ending touches on a merger in between two having difficulties cable devices: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His system in the starting was twofold: to target on earning the community extra offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing original programs, instead concentrating on obtaining current kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 per cent of just about every new show that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes stated in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an academic arm of the cable sector.

“Our overall solution is to make a sane economic design,” he said in 1985. “I like to tell persons doing the job for us that we never try to eat at ‘21.’”