US network NBC, which owns exclusive rights to Olympics coverage in the United States, refrained from showing the opening ceremony live, preferring instead to delay coverage by 12 hours for a prime-time evening slot.
A spokesman for NBC, which paid nearly 900 million dollars for Olympic broadcast rights, said the decision was taken to maximize viewing figures.
"It's a business decision," the spokesman told AFP. "It protects our affiliates, our advertisers, and shows it to the largest number of viewers possible," he added.
Bizarrely, the co-hosts of NBC's breakfast television show barely mentioned the ongoing ceremony during their broadcast, which was reportedly pre-taped.
Meanwhile rival networks used correspondents in Beijing to describe details of the ceremony, but no footage of the extravaganza was available.
Major newspapers carried extensive reports of the ceremony in their online editions, with the story dominating The New York Times' homepage. The Times illustrated their coverage with a selection of photographs.
The opening ceremony blackout dismayed dozens of readers who posted messages on a New York Times message board.
"What a joke. I got up this morning to watch the ceremony assuming that it would be on," said one poster, Andrew, who wrote that he had found a live stream of the event on the Internet.
Another contributor, Leo, said attempting to impose a blackout in the age of the Internet was impossible.
"A delayed play is ridiculous in an Internet age," he wrote. "They thought people could pretend to ignore such an important event was happening on the (other) side of the global? It's impossible."
Others accused NBC of living in a bygone era.
"I can't understand how in 2008, in the area of instant access, with multiple media outlets, NBC behaves as if we are in 1950, and has the guts to make audiences 'wait' for a live coverage that many other countries in the world can see as they are taking place," wrote Erik.
Another poster, Jordan, lamented: "Richest country in the world and we can't watch the Olympic opening ceremony live. Its being shown live all over the world ... NBC is pathetic."
A writer on the San Francisco Chronicle's website accused NBC of putting advertising revenues before public service.
"NBC is an acronym for 'Not airing Before making big Cash! The Chinese may censor their people over politics -- our corporate overlords sensor (sic) us over profits," the reader fumed.
Meanwhile, attempts to circumvent the blackout on Youtube were quickly clamped down. Although several users of the popular video-sharing site appeared to have posted clips of the ceremony, the items were later blocked.
However, other sites scoured the web in order to locate live coverage of the opening ceremony, the New York Times reported, and found success with a German-language feed amongst others.
The NBC spokesman said the network was rigorously enforcing web violations of its broadcast rights.
"We take copyright law very seriously and we're actively working with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to ensure the take-down of infringing Olympic content on the Internet," he said.