Simon Cowell is best known for his cutting comments on talent shows
Music mogul Simon Cowell has been presented with the special recognition prize at the 14th National Television Awards in London.
As he accepted the gong the 49-year-old X Factor judge said he had "loved every single minute" of his TV career.
Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donelly won best entertainment presenters for the eighth year in a row.
David Tennant, who won the outstanding drama performance prize for Doctor Who, announced he would be leaving the show.
His decision brings to an end his popular four-year tenure as the time lord.
Speaking live to the audience about his award, he said: "Thank you so much for this. This is really, really very exciting."
Tennant went head-to-head with his Doctor Who co-star Catherine Tate in the outstanding drama performance category, which replaced the best actor and actress group this year.
Tennant, 37, has previously won two National Television Awards.
Doctor Who was named most popular serial drama for the fourth year running.
Standing on stage, Cowell spoke of the pitfalls of fame.
He revealed how he did not have a private life and had to worry about having his photograph taken.
"I've definitely become more spoilt, more shallow and can honestly say I have loved every single minute of it. It's the best job in the world."
He thanked the people that "make the show", saying: "I'm eternally grateful for making me look quite good."
Cowell added: "I don't ever take it for granted that we're going to get an audience. The fact that people like and watch the show really means a lot."
However, he was not pleased that Strictly Come Dancing beat The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent in the most popular talent show category, which was voted for by viewers during the evening.
Speaking backstage he said: "It's bad enough losing but losing to that lot is a nightmare."
Top gear triumph
EastEnders rose above rivals Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks in the most popular serial drama category.
Barbara Windsor, who plays Peggy Mitchell, said: "It's the best thing. It's better than sex.
Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly collected the show's award
"We've had a great year but that Hollyoaks is coming up isn't it? It used to be a two horse race between us and Corrie. But now it isn't."
Rita Simons, who plays Roxy Mitchell in the BBC One soap, scooped a second win for EastEnders taking most popular newcomer.
Jeremy Clarkson's BBC show Top Gear won the most popular factual programme.
It is the third year in a row that the motoring show has scooped the award.
The Stig - the anonymous driver who races the cars on the series - picked up the prize because Clarkson and the other presenters were away filming.
Griff Rhys Jones, who presented the award read out a speech on behalf of Top Gear's presenter.
"Sadly we can't be here tonight because we're filming the first of the new series, even though it'll be up against Strictly [Come Dancing] on Sunday night and only seven people will watch it," it said.
The Paul O'Grady Show took the first gong of the night, taking most popular entertainment programme.
"I've just walked in, I haven't got myself together yet," he said as he picked up his prize, before adding: "This is a real surprise."
Former Hollyoaks star Matt Littler, who played Max Cunningham, walked away with the outstanding series drama performance award for the Channel 4 soap.
ITV show Benidorm, based around a working-class family holidaying in the Spanish resort, won the award for best comedy.
The ceremony was hosted by newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald.