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 Heritage Channel, which now get to into 335 million households around the earth, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

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

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, initially the Arts & Enjoyment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He released the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for instructional and community affairs programming, marketing it inside the market and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, mostly by purchasing programming and building a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with nearby cable units.

“After 60 times right here, I informed my wife I did not believe this detail experienced a 20 percent probability, due to the fact each and every time I turned around there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Moments in 1989. “I utilised to say that we have been like a bumblebee — we weren’t meant to fly.”

But they did. A&E became rewarding within three a long time by featuring an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Periods put it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief story and a flip from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Moments in 1985. “There is a young generation that has hardly ever viewed any assumed-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve in no way seen classical audio.

“By community standards,” he ongoing, “our viewership will usually be minimal. But that is the functionality of cable — to existing plenty of alternate options so that persons can be their very own programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular identity with scripted demonstrates (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series based mostly on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community continued to increase its scope to contain documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which could possibly be labeled as an anthropological review of compulsive stockpiling and the Record Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

Right after his demise, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 mom and dad had been from Greece. Each his mothers and fathers labored in the fur trade.

Immediately after graduating from Bryant Substantial College in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s University, the place he fulfilled his potential wife, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife one more son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and 4 grandchildren. A further son, Christopher, died just before him.

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to facts technological innovation at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A friend released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him around lunch and had him sign a deal drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to do the job there in 1980, along with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Network took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served set the ending touches on a merger in between two battling cable systems: the Amusement Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His approach in the starting was twofold: to aim on building the network additional readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by making first programs, rather concentrating on getting existing kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of every single new clearly show that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 interview with The Cable Middle, an academic arm of the cable market.

“Our overall technique is to develop a sane economic product,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to explain to folks performing for us that we don’t eat at ‘21.’”