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 History Channel, which now attain into 335 million households round the world, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness, his son George mentioned.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief government of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Network, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a three way partnership of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Group. He launched the History Channel in 1995 and remained an aggressive advocate, each inside the trade and as a spokesman earlier than Congress, for instructional and public affairs programming.

By the mid-1980s, A&E had emerged — largely by shopping for programming and constructing a bankable viewer viewers by negotiating distribution rights with native cable programs — as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable service.

“After 60 days here, I told my wife I didn’t think this thing had a 20 percent chance, because every time I turned around there was another obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes advised The New York Times in 1989. “I used to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned worthwhile inside three years by providing an eclectic menu of every day programming that, as The Times put it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a program about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie short story and a turn from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We don’t want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Times in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has by no means seen any thought-provoking leisure on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each 16 minutes, however they’ve by no means seen classical music.

“By community requirements,” he continued, “our viewership will always be limited. But that is the function of cable — to present enough alternatives so that individuals can be their own programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mixture of leisure and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations like its wildly widespread co-production with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the mini-series “Pride and Prejudice,” a co-production of A&E and the BBC.Credit…Joss Barratt/A&E

The community continued to broaden its scope to incorporate documentary collection like “Biography”; “Hoarders,” which is likely to be labeled as an anthropological examine of compulsive stockpiling; and the History Channel’s encyclopedic scrutiny of Adolf Hitler.

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

After his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the government vice chairman of Hearst, referred to as him “the father of the History Channel.”

Nickolas Davatzes was born on March 14, 1942, in Manhattan to George Davatzes, a Greek immigrant, and Alexandra (Kordes) Davatzes, whose dad and mom have been from Greece. Both his dad and mom labored in the fur commerce.

After graduating from Bryant High School in Astoria, Queens, he earned a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a grasp’s in sociology in 1964, each from St. John’s University, the place he met his future spouse, Dorothea Hayes.

In addition to his son George, he’s survived by his spouse; one other son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes; a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino; and 4 grandchildren. Another son, Christopher, died earlier than him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to data know-how at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A pal launched him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him over lunch and had him signal a contract drawn on a restaurant serviette. He went to work there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Entertainment Network took form in 1983, when he helped put the ending touches on a merger between two struggling cable programs: the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller household, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His technique in the starting was twofold: to give attention to making the community extra out there to viewers, and to not be diverted by producing authentic packages, as a substitute specializing in buying current ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of every new show that goes on the air usually fails,” mentioned in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an academic arm of the cable trade.

“Our overall approach is to create a sane economic model,” Mr. Davatzes mentioned in 1985. “I like to tell people working for us that we don’t eat at ‘21.’”