NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It seems a good laugh is more expensive these days. While the economy forced the big broadcast networks to lower ad rates for many of their most-popular programs during this year's TV upfront market, several top-name comedies were able to command better prices.
The average price for a 30-second ad sold in the upfront in many top properties -- including ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives," Fox's "House," and all three of CBS's "CSI" programs -- declined from the 2008-2009 season to the current one, according to an Advertising Age survey of ad prices for prime-time broadcast-network TV shows. But the prices for CBS comedies "How I Met Your Mother," "Big Bang Theory," "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" actually rose.
Some increases are very mild, but still, they're up. The average cost of a 30-second spot in "Gary Unmarried," for instance, rose to $79,986 from $72,019, while the average cost to advertise on "Old Christine" rose to $80,106 from $79,535 last season. "How I Met Your Mother," which moved to Mondays at 8 p.m. this season from 8:30 p.m. last season, saw the average cost to advertise rise to $145,106 from $142,117.
And "Big Bang Theory," one of this season's 10 most-expensive programs, saw the average cost of a 30-second ad rise to $191,900 from $135,357 last season. This season, "Big Bang" follows CBS's high-priced "Two and a Half Men." Last season, "Big Bang" led off Monday night.
And CBS isn't the only one doing well by delivering laughs.
At ABC, comedy seems to be a more lucrative choice than drama. Consider that last season, the well-liked but not well-watched "Pushing Daisies" commanded an average cost of $111,125 at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays while "Private Practice" notched an average of $182,565 at 9 p.m.
This season, ABC's four new comedies could bring in more moolah. "Hank" commands an average of $91,167 at 8 p.m., "The Middle" brings in an average of $97,812 at 8:30, "Modern Family" attracts an average of $130,388 at 9 p.m. and "Cougar Town" scores an average of $103,314 at 9:30 p.m.
On NBC, the average cost for a 30-second ad in Thursday night's "30 Rock" rose to $159,674 from $104,178 last season, according to the Ad Age survey. The only other NBC program to see a hike in the average cost of a 30-second ad was "Biggest Loser," which now commands an average of $128,295, compared with last season's $113,218.
The Ad Age survey reveals other smart moves on the network grid as well.
While CW's new "Melrose Place" is no "NCIS," it is able to command better prices than the program that was previously on in its place, "Privileged." "Privileged" notched an average of $33,305 for a 30-second spot, while "Melrose" commands an average of $49,019.
Or how about "Bones" and "Fringe" on Fox's Thursday-night lineup? At first blush, the two programs seem to be giving up ad revenue: "Bones" is commanding an average of $107,942 on Thursdays this season, whereas it brought in an average of $114,084 when it started last season on Wednesdays. Likewise, "Fringe" is off substantially this season, bringing in an average of $120,062 when it secured a whopping $343,000 last season (when Fox ran the drama with fewer commercials, making the show worth more to advertisers).
But the combination of "Bones" and "Fringe" is an improvement over Fox's Thursday night last season, when "The Moment of Truth" lured an average of $61,729 and "Kitchen Nightmares" brought in an average of $114,146.
One might also lament the fate of NBC's popular "Law & Order: SVU." This season the police drama commands an average of $101,632 Wednesdays at 9 p.m. for a 30-second spot, down from the average of $146,679 it was able to secure last season at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Yet the show fares better than the program it replaced in that time slot. Last season, "Deal or No Deal" only was able to take in an average of $92,115 for a 30-second ad.
Aside from the comedies, this season's schedule has few gainers. CBS's "NCIS" takes in an average of $133,304 this season; last season it commanded an average of $121,718. Likewise, CBS's "The Mentalist" commands an average of $140,940 this season, compared with $97,006 last season (the show moved to Thursday night from Tuesday night). ABC's "Saturday Night College Football" this season commands an average price of $140,080, up from the $114,649 it secured last season.
And would you believe that Fox's venerable "America's Most Wanted" costs more this season than it did last? It's true. Despite airing on one of the broadcast networks' lowest-rated nights of the week, Saturday, "AMW" commands an average of $44,729 this season. Last year, it notched an average of $41,730.