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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in generating the cable television networks A&E and the History Channel, which now get to into 335 million homes around the world, died on Aug. 21 at his dwelling in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

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

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 venture of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He launched the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and community affairs programming, selling it inside of the business and in appearances ahead of Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, mostly by getting programming and setting up a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with community cable units.

“After 60 days right here, I informed my spouse I did not assume this point experienced a 20 p.c likelihood, simply because every single time I turned all over there was a different impediment,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Situations in 1989. “I utilized to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become financially rewarding in three many years by providing an eclectic menu of everyday programming that, as The Times place it, “might contain a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a application about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small tale and a change from the stand-up comic Buzz Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to replicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes advised The Periods in 1985. “There is a young technology that has in no way observed any believed-provoking amusement on television. They’ve found a rock star destroying a guitar each and every 16 minutes, but they’ve under no circumstances viewed classical music.

“By network expectations,” he ongoing, “our viewership will often be limited. But that is the function of cable — to existing sufficient options so that people today can be their have programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad mix of amusement and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted displays (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Mystery”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

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

Mr. Davatzes was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French govt manufactured 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 loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, identified 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 moms and dads had been from Greece. Both his mom and dad worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Large University in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, the two from St. John’s College, the place he satisfied his upcoming wife, 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. One more son, Christopher, died ahead of him.

After serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to facts technology at Intext Communications Methods in 1978. A buddy released him to an govt at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him over lunch and experienced him signal a agreement drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Community took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served set the ending touches on a merger involving two struggling cable units: the Enjoyment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His method in the beginning was twofold: to focus on producing the community additional available to viewers, and not to be diverted by making first plans, rather concentrating on obtaining existing ones.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 percent of each new present that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an educational arm of the cable industry.

“Our overall technique is to build a sane economic product,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to convey to people functioning for us that we really don’t eat at ‘21.’”