But in many ways, the evening's biggest winner was newly retired Bob Barker who picked up one of his 19th trophy as game-show host, beating a field that included last year's winner, Alex Trebek of "Jeopardy!"
The 83-year-old Barker received his second of three standing ovations of the night, having gotten his first when he introduced the evening's first presenters while on the arms of "Barker's Beauties," models from his show.
"This proves that the judges had sympathy for an old man who doesn't have a job," quipped Barker, who retired last week after 35 years on "The Price Is Right" and 50 years in television.
"I want to thank the television viewers across the country for inviting me into their homes for 50 years," he said, before concluding with his signature signoff. "And remember, help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered."
Barker came into the show already a winner. He earned his 18th trophy at Thursday night's ceremony for craft categories as executive producer of "The Price Is Right."
Barker's career was honored during the ceremony, which aired live on CBS from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles following the network's prime-time re-broadcast of Barker's last "Price" show.
DeGeneres scored her third consecutive victory as a talk show host, keeping "The View" co-hosts Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and the recently departed Rosie O'Donnell winless.
"I really am shocked," DeGeneres said before acknowledging "The View" ladies and O'Donnell's controversial year-long stint. "I thought Rosie brought a lot of new viewers to daytime television and it was interesting."
"And I want to just start with something controversial right now to kick it off and I know this might not be popular and I don't care because that's what I'm doing," she said. "I just want to say it — I think Bob Barker is a quitter."
Barker laughed along with the rest of the audience.
CBS swept the lead acting categories, with victories for Maura West of "As the World Turns" and Christian LeBlanc of "The Young and the Restless," daytime's No. 1 rated show.
West earned her first Daytime Emmy for playing Carly, whose emotional breakup with husband Jack was a major storyline. She defeated four-time winner Kim Zimmer of "Guiding Light" in a category where all five nominees star on CBS soaps.
"It's so much heavier than I thought," said West, who began watching the soap opera in high school and met her real-life husband on the show. "I feel like I'm going to throw up. I'm just thrilled to bits and pieces."
LeBlanc won his first trophy in 2005. This time, he upset a field that included co-star Peter Bergman, last year's winner Anthony Geary of "General Hospital," Michael Park of "As the World Turns," and Ricky Paull Goldin of "Guiding Light."
Genie Francis of "General Hospital" claimed her first Daytime Emmy for supporting actress in a drama series. Francis returned to the soap opera last year as Laura Spencer, a role she began playing at age 14.
"Oh my goodness!" she said. "Thank you so much. I am overwhelmed. I've waited 31 years for this moment."
Francis and co-star Anthony Geary, who plays Luke Spencer, were part of the most watched event in daytime television history when their characters married 26 years ago.
Francis' "General Hospital" co-star, Rick Hearst, won supporting actor honors.
Jennifer Landon of "As the World Turns" won her second consecutive award for younger actress in a drama series. She thanked her late father, actor Michael Landon.
Bryton McClure of "The Young and the Restless" won his first Daytime Emmy as younger actor in a drama series.
There was a tie for performer in a children's series between "Sesame Street's" Kevin Clash, who plays Elmo, and Caroll Spinney, who plays Oscar the Grouch.
"I started watching this show when I was 10 years old," said Clash, who also won last year and had a tuxedoed Elmo on his arm. "My mom thought I would go blind watching it trying to figure out how to build these things. I just love living on the street of 'Sesame Street."'
Other special tributes Friday night included a Lifetime Achievement Award to Lee Phillip Bell, who co-created "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" with late husband William J. Bell.
By Beth Harris