By Leah Hochbaum Rosner in N.Y. with reports from Dom Serafini in São Paulo

The highlight of the ninth annual Brasil TV Forum, held June 3-5 in São Paulo’s Frei Caneca Convention Center, had to be the first ever “Portuguese-Speaking Broadcasters Meeting,” which was held at the nearby Novotel Jaragua. This meeting represents a precedent as, to the best of VideoAge’s knowledge, there have never been any other, similar gatherings among broadcasters of nations that share the same language.

Broadcasters hailing from all of the nine Portuguese-speaking nations around the world, including Brazil, Portugal, Angola and Mozambique, got together to discuss technological innovations and co-production opportunities.

At the Frei Caneca Center, there were 18 exhibitors, six panels, three pitch sessions, 20 meetings (including the much-anticipated “30 Minutes With…” sessions in which directors discussed their programming and acquisition policies, as well as offered tips for producers and distributors on how best to pitch projects to acquisition execs), and a whopping 83 screenings.

Bringing together broadcasters and producers from more than 30 countries to network, share experiences and find product, this year’s Forum occupied double the space than last year’s edition. Organizers moved the event to a different floor at the centrally located Frei Caneca Convention Center hoping to make things more comfortable for attendees.

The Latin-flavored Forum drew roughly 1,200 participants — mostly hailing from Brazil, but with contingents from Canada, and for the first time this year, a delegation of eight producers from Italy, seven from Spain and 10 from Uruguay.

At the opening cocktail reception which officially kicked off the event, prizes were awarded to Brazilian production house Flamma for its children’s cartoon series Princess do Mara; to HBO for a large number of original productions made in Latin America; to Brazilian TV network RBS for encouraging local production; to Janete Clair, in memoriam, for her contribution to Brazilian dramaturgy; and to Colombia’s Fernando Gaitan, creator of Ugly Betty, which has become a hit in many countries, including the U.S. Besides the opening ceremony, Brazil’s own TV Globo organized the only other cocktail reception at the event.

Organizers of the Forum, including André Mermelstein, are hopeful that the number of Brazilian co-productions will soon soar due to new tax incentives that should soon be in place, which are designed to encourage TV channels to partner with independent producers in Brazil. Article 3 of the new Audiovisual Law allows foreign companies that sell or license programming to invest 70 percent of withholding tax due in the development or co-production of independent features, shorts, series or documentaries. The National Film Agency (Ancine) still needs to implement the rule, but locals expect it to happen in the next few months.

But even before those new incentives are available, there was big news of a co-partnership coming out of the Forum. Globo TV announced the renewal of its partnership with Portugal’s SIC for another four years. The deal gives SIC the exclusive rights to exhibit all new soap operas produced by Globo until 2012. It covers only the purchase and sale of soaps — not programming of any other kind.

Earlier this year, Forum Brasil organizers announced plans to move the event to Rio next year in order to make it more palatable to visitors, but during this week’s market, they said that the plan has, for now at least, been scrapped. Dates for next year’s event have not yet been set, but Forum Brasil 2009 will most likely take place in early June.