May 28, 2024


Arts Fanatics

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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in developing the cable television networks A&E and the Heritage Channel, which now access into 335 million homes around the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his property in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The result in was issues of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George said.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, originally the Arts & Leisure Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Disney-ABC Television Team. He introduced the Record Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for academic and public affairs programming, advertising it inside the field and in appearances in advance of Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable company, largely by acquiring programming and making a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution rights with nearby cable programs.

“After 60 times here, I informed my spouse I did not believe this point experienced a 20 p.c likelihood, for the reason that each time I turned all over there was an additional impediment,” Mr. Davatzes instructed The New York Occasions in 1989. “I applied to say that we had been like a bumblebee — we weren’t supposed to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become financially rewarding in three decades by giving an eclectic menu of day-to-day programming that, as The Situations put it, “might involve a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a system about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie small story and a convert from the stand-up comic Excitement Belmondo.”

“We really do not want to copy ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes told The Times in 1985. “There is a young era that has never ever seen any believed-provoking enjoyment on television. They’ve noticed a rock star destroying a guitar every single 16 minutes, but they’ve hardly ever observed classical music.

“By community requirements,” he continued, “our viewership will often be constrained. But that is the operate of cable — to present more than enough possibilities so that men and women can be their have programmers.”

Under the A&E umbrella, the network encompassed a broad combine of amusement and nonfiction programming. It created a singular identification with scripted reveals (“100 Centre Avenue,” “A Nero Wolfe Thriller”) and collaborations, like its wildly popular co-generation with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-collection centered on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

The network ongoing to develop its scope to contain documentary collection like “Biography” “Hoarders,” which may well be categorised as an anthropological research of compulsive stockpiling and the Historical past 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 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.

After his loss of life, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the executive vice chairman of Hearst, known as him “the father of the Background 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 had been from Greece. Each his mother and father labored in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant Substantial School in Astoria, Queens, he gained a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, each from St. John’s College, in which he achieved his upcoming wife, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Soon after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to data technology at Intext Communications Devices in 1978. A mate introduced him to an executive at the fledgling Warner Amex cable firm, who recruited him above lunch and had him signal a deal drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to function there in 1980, together with cable television pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took form in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes served set the finishing touches on a merger among two battling cable systems: the Leisure Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller relatives, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His system in the starting was twofold: to concentration on building the community additional readily available to viewers, and not to be diverted by generating original systems, alternatively focusing on acquiring present kinds.

“If you are in programming, we know that 85 percent of every single new show that goes on the air ordinarily fails,” Mr. Davatzes claimed in a 2001 interview with The Cable Center, an instructional arm of the cable business.

“Our in general approach is to create a sane economic product,” he stated in 1985. “I like to explain to people doing the job for us that we do not take in at ‘21.’”