WASHINGTON — A billion people across the globe turned on their TVs to watch the opening ceremony of the London Olympics live Friday, but very few of them were in United States.

With comments about Danny Boyle's extravaganza Britannica pinging back and forth across the world via Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, Americans were uncharacteristically silent.

That is because NBC Universal, the television company which paid a record $2.2 billion for the broadcasting rights, decided not to show the event live on network television.

At 16:00 on the east coast of the country, it will be shown on tape delay at "primetime" 19:30 ET.

NBC showed a "sneak peak" shortly after the first act of the ceremony ended and @NBCOlympics live tweeted the event, hardly a substitute for watching the event in all its glory.

While the rest of the world watched, some Americans turned to illegal Internet streams to find out what was going on, others contented themselves with rubbishing NBC's decision online.

"@NBCOlympics the rest of the world already saw this. It's only a sneak peak because of your idiotic tape delay. #NBCSucks," non-viewer Robert Fett commented on Twitter.

@Candice_808 was equally vitriolic. "Moronic idea to not broadcast the Olympics live," she Tweeted.

NBC was not immediately available to comment, but NBC's past Olympics coverage has used delayed coverage heavily to ensure a prime time audience.

"While the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will not be streamed live, NBCOlympics.com will distribute some clips from the Opening Ceremony before the event airs in primetime," an earlier statement said.

"As previously announced, every Olympic sporting event will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com."

Photo AFP, Ben Stansall