May 27, 2024

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Business & Finance

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

4 min read

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now reach into 335 million homes all-around the globe, died on Aug. 21 at his household in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The lead to was complications of Parkinson’s ailment, his son George reported.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main executive of A&E, initially the Arts & Entertainment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint enterprise of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He introduced the History Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and community affairs programming, selling it within the industry and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E experienced emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable support, largely by shopping for programming and creating a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with regional cable systems.

“After 60 times right here, I told my wife I did not feel this point experienced a 20 p.c chance, due to the fact every single time I turned about there was yet another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes told The New York Times in 1989. “I made use of to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E turned profitable in a few a long time by supplying an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Instances put it, “might consist of a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a method about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter story and a switch from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We don’t want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes instructed The Occasions in 1985. “There is a more youthful generation that has never ever seen any considered-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve viewed a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever observed classical songs.

“By network benchmarks,” he ongoing, “our viewership will always be restricted. But that is the perform of cable — to present ample options so that folks can be their have programmers.”

Below the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad blend of amusement and nonfiction programming. It developed a singular identification with scripted shows (“100 Centre Street,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly common co-creation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-series primarily based on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The community continued to broaden its scope to include things like documentary series like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well 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 authorities built 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 government vice chairman of Hearst, named 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 moms and dads were being from Greece. Each his dad and mom labored in the fur trade.

Right after graduating from Bryant High College in Astoria, Queens, he attained a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, both from St. John’s University, in which he satisfied his long term wife, 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 4 grandchildren. Yet another son, Christopher, died right before him.

Just after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to information and facts know-how at Intext Communications Techniques in 1978. A buddy launched him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable business, who recruited him more than lunch and had him signal a contract drawn on a cafe serviette. He went to operate there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Leisure Community took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes helped place the finishing touches on a merger amongst two battling cable devices: the Enjoyment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller loved ones, and the ARTS Community, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His approach in the beginning was twofold: to focus on earning the network additional offered to viewers, and not to be diverted by developing initial applications, as a substitute concentrating on attaining present types.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 % of each and every new exhibit that goes on the air typically fails,” Mr. Davatzes said in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an academic arm of the cable industry.

“Our total tactic is to create a sane financial design,” he said in 1985. “I like to notify individuals functioning for us that we don’t try to eat at ‘21.’”