The first Emmy award ceremony took place on January 25, 1949. The first daytime-themed Emmy Awards were given out at the primetime Emmy awards ceremony in 1972, when The Doctors and General Hospital were nominated for Outstanding Achievement in a Daytime Drama. That year, The Doctors won the first Best Show Daytime Emmy. In addition, the award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in a Daytime Drama was given to Mary Fickett from All My Children. A previous category "Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming" was added once in 1968 with individuals like Days of Our Lives star MacDonald Carey nominated. Due to voting rules of the time, judges could opt to either award one or no Emmy, and in the end they decided that no one nominated was deserving of the golden statuette. This snub outraged then-Another World writer Agnes Nixon, causing her to write in The New York Times, "...after viewing the recent fiasco of the Emmy awards, it may well be considered a mark of distinction to have been ignored by this group."
Longtime General Hospital star John Beradino became a leading voice to have daytime talent honored with special recognition for their work. The first separate awards show made just for daytime programming was broadcast in 1974 from the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center in New York. The hosts that year were Barbara Walters and Peter Marshall. For years, the gala was held in New York, usually at nearby Radio City Music Hall, with occasional broadcasts from Madison Square Garden. In 2006, the Daytime Emmys was moved to the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, the first time they had ever been held outside of New York. The Kodak Theatre also hosted the 2007 and 2008 ceremonies, before it was moved again in 2009 to the Orpheum Theatre across town. In 2010 and 2011, the Daytime Emmys were instead held in Las Vegas. From 2012 onward, the Daytime Emmys have been held at various venues in Los Angeles, never to return again to New York (most likely as a reflection of the current state of American daytime dramas, where all New York-produced network soap operas have since been cancelled, and the ones left on the air are being recorded in Los Angeles).
Due to the relatively small talent pool in daytime television, it has become common for the same people to be nominated repeatedly. The most infamous of these is All My Children star Susan Lucci, whose name became synonymous with being nominated for an award and never winning, after having been nominated 18 times without receiving an award before finally winning a Daytime Emmy for Best Actress in 1999.
In 2003, in response to heavy criticism of bloc voting in favor of shows with the largest casts, an additional voting round was added to all the drama acting categories. Known as the "pre-nominations", one or two actors from each show is selected to then move on and be considered for the primary nominations for the awards.