Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now reach into 335 million households around the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his house in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.
The bring about was problems of Parkinson’s disease, his son George explained.
Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and chief govt of A&E, initially the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He launched the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and public affairs programming, advertising and marketing it in the sector and in appearances prior to Congress.
By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, largely by buying programming and constructing a bankable audience by negotiating distribution legal rights with nearby cable techniques.
“After 60 days in this article, I instructed my spouse I did not consider this detail experienced a 20 % probability, mainly because every single time I turned all-around there was yet another obstacle,” Mr. Davatzes explained to The New York Occasions in 1989. “I used to say that we ended up like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”
But they did. A&E turned profitable within just a few several years by presenting an eclectic menu of day by day programming that, as The Moments place it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a software about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie short story and a switch from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”
“We do not want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes informed The Moments in 1985. “There is a youthful era that has hardly ever witnessed any considered-provoking amusement on tv. They’ve seen a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever observed classical new music.
“By community standards,” he continued, “our viewership will always be confined. But that is the functionality of cable — to existing adequate possibilities so that men and women can be their very own programmers.”
Underneath the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a wide mix of entertainment and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular identity with scripted demonstrates (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly well known 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.
Mr. Davatzes was awarded the Countrywide Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2006. The French government designed him a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1989. He was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Corridor of Fame in 1999.
Just after his dying, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, known 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 mother and father have been from Greece. Both of those his dad and mom worked in the fur trade.
Following graduating from Bryant Significant College in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s College, wherever he satisfied his upcoming spouse, Dorothea Hayes.
In addition to his son George, he is survived by his wife yet another son, Dr. Nicholas Davatzes a sister, Carol Davatzes Ferrandino and four grandchildren. An additional son, Christopher, died before him.
Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Corporation in 1965 and shifted to details know-how at Intext Communications Systems in 1978. A good friend introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him about lunch and experienced him signal a contract drawn on a restaurant napkin. He went to work there in 1980, alongside cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.
The Arts & Leisure Community took condition in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes assisted put the ending touches on a merger involving two struggling cable techniques: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.
His system in the starting was twofold: to focus on building the network a lot more offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by creating original plans, alternatively focusing on attaining existing ones.
“If you are in programming, we know that 85 p.c of each and every new demonstrate that goes on the air commonly fails,” Mr. Davatzes explained in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an academic arm of the cable sector.
“Our all round method is to produce a sane financial product,” he claimed in 1985. “I like to tell individuals doing work for us that we don’t eat at ‘21.’”