It’s true: YouTube to take on cable with A-list celebs

An onslaught of exclusive content from a parade of A-list stars including Madonna, Rainn Wilson, Tony Hawk, Ashton Kutcher, Shaq and others will be coming to YouTube (s GOOG) in the next few months as the site is positioning itself as the next big cable channel, with the exception that you won’t need a cable subscription to watch it. The Wall Street Journal has been reporting for months about this push for original content, and YouTube just officially confirmed these reports with a post on its blog. It reads, in part:

“Cable television expanded our viewing possibilities from just a handful of channels to hundreds, and brought us some of the most defining media experiences of the last few decades– think MTV (s via), ESPN (s dis) and HBO (s twx). Today, the web is bringing us entertainment from an even wider range of talented producers, and many of the defining channels of the next generation are being born, and watched, on YouTube.”

YouTube will use the new influx of celebrities to launch a number of high-profile channels, including a new dance, a comedy and a Hispanic channel, which will feature Modern Family star Sofia Vergara. These channels will consist of a mix of short- and long-form content, and everything will be published with a TV-like schedule, meaning that new episodes of a particular show may be published every Tuesday afternoon at 3pm. Some content, including a show produced by My Damn Channel, will even be broadcast live.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that content makers will get some significant advances, and keep 55 percent of YouTube’s ad revenue after these advances are going to be recouped.

Content will be available globally and on any device – which of course includes the Google TV platform that is going to receive a much-needed update in the coming days.

I’ve heard from people familiar with the project that YouTube folks see it as additive to cable, but the timing in conjunction with the Google TV relaunch and the direct references to MTV and HBO could also be seen as a bit of a muscle flexing towards the traditional broadcast and cable networks. Almost all networks decided to block Google TV from accessing their web content when the platform launched a year ago. With YouTube attracting major talent for its own site, Google also seems to signal: Thanks cable, but we’re doing just fine without your websites.