June 16, 2024


General Line

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

Nickolas Davatzes, who was instrumental in producing the cable tv networks A&E and the Background Channel, which now access into 335 million households close to the environment, died on Aug. 21 at his residence in Wilton, Conn. He was 79.

The induce was troubles of Parkinson’s disorder, his son George explained.

Mr. Davatzes (pronounced dah-VAT-sis) was president and main govt of A&E, at first the Arts & Enjoyment Community, which he ran from 1983 to 2005 as a joint venture of the Hearst Company and the Disney-ABC Tv Group. He released the Historical past Channel in 1995 and remained a forceful advocate for educational and general public affairs programming, marketing it inside the business and in appearances just before Congress.

By the mid-1980s A&E had emerged as the sole surviving advertiser-supported cultural cable provider, mainly by shopping for programming and developing a bankable viewers by negotiating distribution legal rights with nearby cable programs.

“After 60 times here, I explained to my wife I did not believe this factor had a 20 % likelihood, because every single time I turned around there was another impediment,” Mr. Davatzes informed The New York Periods in 1989. “I employed to say that we were like a bumblebee — we weren’t intended to fly.”

But they did. A&E grew to become rewarding inside of 3 yrs by giving an eclectic menu of each day programming that, as The Occasions set it, “might include a biographical portrait of Herbert Hoover, a method about the embattled buffalo, a dramatization of an Ann Beattie shorter tale and a transform from the stand-up comedian Buzz Belmondo.”

“We really don’t want to duplicate ‘The A-Team’ or ‘Laverne & Shirley,’” Mr. Davatzes explained to The Instances in 1985. “There is a more youthful generation that has never seen any believed-provoking amusement on tv. They’ve observed a rock star destroying a guitar each individual 16 minutes, but they’ve never ever found classical new music.

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

Under the A&E umbrella, the community encompassed a broad mix of leisure and nonfiction programming. It produced a singular id with scripted demonstrates (“100 Centre Road,” “A Nero Wolfe Secret”) and collaborations, like its wildly well-known co-output with the BBC of “Pride and Prejudice,” a mini-sequence dependent on the Jane Austen novel starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

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

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

Just after his death, Frank A. Bennack Jr., the govt vice chairman of Hearst, referred to 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 mothers and fathers had been from Greece. The two his moms and dads worked in the fur trade.

After graduating from Bryant High Faculty in Astoria, Queens, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in economics in 1962 and a master’s in sociology in 1964, equally from St. John’s College, exactly where he satisfied his potential wife, Dorothea Hayes.

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

Right after serving in the Marines, Mr. Davatzes joined the Xerox Company in 1965 and shifted to info technologies at Intext Communications Units in 1978. A buddy introduced him to an government at the fledgling Warner Amex cable enterprise, who recruited him over lunch and experienced him indicator a agreement drawn on a cafe napkin. He went to get the job done there in 1980, together with cable tv pioneers like Richard Aurelio and Larry Wangberg.

The Arts & Enjoyment Network took shape in 1983, when Mr. Davatzes assisted set the finishing touches on a merger among two battling cable techniques: the Entertainment Community, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family members, and the ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

His tactic in the beginning was twofold: to concentration on making the community much more available to viewers, and not to be diverted by making original systems, alternatively focusing on buying current kinds.

“If you’re in programming, we know that 85 p.c of every single new clearly show that goes on the air generally fails,” Mr. Davatzes reported in a 2001 interview with The Cable Heart, an educational arm of the cable marketplace.

“Our general tactic is to generate a sane economic model,” he mentioned in 1985. “I like to inform folks doing work for us that we do not take in at ‘21.’”