The Programming History Maker10/14/2005 8:00 PM Eastern
When Nick Davatzes met Warner Amex Cable Communications’ CEO Gus Hauser in 1980, the rest was literally history. Not only was Davatzes front-and-center in the creation of the A&E Network, but also The History Channel, The Military History Channel and The History Channel en español. So the CEO Emeritus of A&E Television Networks (AETN) knows a bit about historical moments.
“I was first and foremost a line executive and enjoyed that role. But in 1983, I was asked to become president of A&E. That’s when I became a programmer. It wasn’t exactly a planned career path,” Davatzes says.
Davatzes got his start in cable on the operator side, joining Hauser at Warner Amex after a stint in the Marines and 13 years at Xerox Corp.
He later joined A&E Network as senior vice president and group executive during the network’s formation, when it was created from two defunct channels, ARTS and The Entertainment Channel.
Eventually, A&E’s Biography series began breaking new programming ground. It was the first cable series that ran documentary profiles on a regular basis. When it was stripped in primetime across six nights, it became one of the industry’s earliest marquee shows
“When Biography became a series, that was the launching pad for a run of other networks, which included The History Channel in 1993. But we had debated doing history programs on A&E in 1986,” Davatzes says. “We felt the demographics were there and that we must understand history from an educational perspective. And the visual medium was becoming very important. It was really a no-brainer.”
Today, The History Channel boasts 88 million subscribers in the U.S. and more than 140 million subscribers worldwide.
Davatzes gets high marks for his consummate professionalism from Cox Communications Inc. CEO Jim Robbins. “He is very much [among] a solid, first generation of professional managers that entered cable. He has the ability to manage several areas, and his creation of The History Channel was truly a defining moment for the entire industry. I’ve always admired his transition from operator to programmer. He’s a class act.”
He’s also an act that has transcended cable to include a long list of contributions to community organizations, non-profits and historical foundations.
“He is clearly a Marine first, a Boy Scout and magnificent mentor. He brought A&E some real innovations and brought his team together ethically and morally,” says former Hearst Entertainment Group president and CEO Ray Joslin, who hired Davatzes from Warner Amex in 1983. “His ability to achieve his objective of creating great programming has improved modern TV in quantum ways, and with the belief that we can better human kind.”
Under Davatzes’ leadership, AETN, A&E, History and other related networks have won numerous awards, including the Marine Corps Historical Foundation Heritage Award. And, in 1994 he won the National Cable & Telecommunications Association Vanguard Award for Programming.