The only real benefit to cable (even Basic cable) was the reliability of the signal to my main MCE box and a few select channels/shows that I liked (i.e. Walking Dead, still not current on Netflix/Amazon). Where I am at now I struggle to get some basic OTA channels because of the distance to the towers (60-80 miles), ABC is one of them. I ended up going through a few apartment friendly antennas (Mohu Leaf sucked) before I ended up with an Antennas Direct - Clearstream 2v
and set it up on the porch with a few stones to hold it in place since I can't attach it. Added a cheapo RCA amp that gets me ABC fairly reliably now. May need to pick up a better Amp to see if I can grab a few more channels at some point.
I don't actually watch a lot of TV regularly, but since I work 3rd shift, I like to have some shows/news lined up to watch on my nights off (and after work in the AM) so I don't have to watch a bunch of Infomercials or "retroTV" into the wee hours (Sun/Mon night can be quite boring).
The Echo worked well, but I was spoiled using the xBox360 that I got for free and had fixed 2 or 3 times for the RROD. It did everything the Echo would do plus had a DVD player and various streaming Apps such as Netflix, amazon, hulu, crackle, etc for it as you mentioned.
I must say that I like not paying the extra for TV to Charter Cable (I mix them up with ComieCast). CableCo's have definitely gotten greedy for what they offer. I can't believe their lowest internet tier costs $50/month here. I get 60Mb DL for that, but I have never needed more than 10-15Mb DL. I was getting basic cable and 15 MB for $50/mos in Indiana (and NTSC on the outlet if you can believe it). It's not so much a stranglehold, its more about getting the basic channels reliably where I am at and the physical layout/limits of where I can put things in the apartment which has proven a bit of a challenge.
At the very least, I think I will go ahead a post up my 2 copies of Win8/MCE in the for sale section since I don't see myself ever using them (won't work with the Echo anyway).
Thanks for the feedback.