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 access into 335 million homes all over the world, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The result in was problems of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George claimed.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, at first the Arts & Leisure Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Team. He introduced the Heritage Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and community affairs programming, endorsing it within the market and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable services, largely by obtaining programming and developing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with nearby cable methods.

“After 60 days right here, I instructed my wife I didn’t imagine this issue had a 20 percent likelihood, because each individual time I turned about there was a further obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Situations in 1989. “I applied to say that we were being like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E became rewarding inside of three decades by providing an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Occasions place it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a plan about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie brief story and a transform from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Instances in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has in no way seen any considered-provoking amusement on tv. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve by no means observed classical audio.

“By network criteria,” he ongoing, “our viewership will generally be confined. But that is the purpose of cable — to present plenty of alternate options so that people today can be their possess programmers.”

Underneath the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It made a singular identification with scripted displays (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community continued to extend its scope to consist of documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may be categorized as an anthropological review of compulsive stockpiling and the Background 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 created him a chevalier of the Purchase of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.

Immediately after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, termed 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 parents were being from Greece. Equally his mothers and fathers worked in the fur trade.

Right after graduating from Bryant High College in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s College, where he met his potential wife, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to information and facts technology at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A pal released him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him more than lunch and had him indicator a agreement drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to operate there in 1980, along with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped set the finishing touches on a merger in between two struggling cable techniques: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His strategy in the starting was twofold: to concentrate on producing the network far more obtainable to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating initial systems, in its place focusing on getting current types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 % of just about every new display that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 job interview with The Cable Center, an instructional arm of the cable field.

“Our general technique is to generate a sane financial design,” he stated in 1985. “I like to convey to people performing for us that we really don’t take in at ‘21.’”