Emmy Award History

Emmy Award history stretches back for six decades, making the Emmys almost as old as broadcast television itself. The Emmy award is an industry award that recognizes artistic and technical achievements in television. It celebrates all facets of the industry, from acting to writing to technical direction. The Emmys honor all forms of entertainment programming, as well as news programs, sports programs and documentaries.

Emmy Award Categories
The best-known Emmy awards are those for prime-time programming and daytime programming. The prime-time Emmys are given to programs that air after 7PM at night. The awards ceremony is held each year in September. Only the artistic awards are handed out during the televised ceremony; these are the acting and "best show" awards that generate news headlines and Emmy predictions. Technical awards, for things like lighting and costume design, are given out at a dinner a few days before the televised awards.

Daytime Emmys are given to shows that air before 6PM. This has been a separate set of categories since 1972, and it got its own awards show, typically held in June, in 1974. 

Sports Emmys are given in late April or early May. This category deals exclusively with sports coverage and sports programming.

There are also regional Emmy awards given in the 20 television markets recognized by the National Academy of Televison Arts and Sciences. These Emmys recognize achievement in local news, sports and entertainment programming and include both daytime and prime-time shows.

Early Emmy History
The members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences choose which programs and individuals will win an Emmy. Syd Cassyd founded the Academy in 1946. Cassyd had an extensive background in film and television production work. He founded the organization as a place to discuss techniques and encourage the advancement television production.

At first, the organization served as an idea exchange, but eventually the group decided to host a ceremony that rewarded those who did outstanding work in the industry. The very first Emmy ceremony was held on January 25, 1949, at the Hollywood Athletic Club. The first ceremony consisted of awards like Most Outstanding Television Personality, awarded to Shirley Dinsdale, a ventriloquist.

The Emmy Statue
In the beginning, the Emmy award was called the Immy, an industry nickname for the image-orthicon camera tube, which was used in early television cameras. Louis McManus designed the statuette. He used his wife Dorothy as the model. The statuette features a winged woman holding an atom. The wings represent the muses or creativity of television, while the atom represents the science behind television production. 

Originally, the Emmys were intended to honor shows produced only in the Los Angeles area. By the 1950s, the Academy had expanded the program to include shows that were broadcast nationwide.

In 1955, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences was formed in New York to serve members on the East Coast. The NATAS also founded the 19 regional chapters that host local Emmys. In Los Angeles, the original Academy still hosts regional awards for programming produced in the Los Angeles area. 

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Learn more about the Emmys, including Emmy award history and who stands out among past Emmy winners.

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Learn more about the Emmys, including Emmy award history and who stands out among past Emmy winners.

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